To maintain a healthy body, medical professionals recommend a proper diet and exercise. But what about sleep? We spend up to one-third of our lives sleeping. Sleep is vital because it promotes healthy brain function and physical health while enhancing our quality of life and safety.
If you’ve ever awakened from a night of sleep and did not feel refreshed and alert, your body may not have received its required amount of sufficient sleep.
Sure, caffeinated beverages, energy drinks–and other legal stimulants–will take care of the sluggish feeling in the short-term, but sleep deprivation does not do a body good. Too many nights of inefficient sleep–not enough time spent sleeping, waking up often, or missing sleep altogether–can lead to sleep debt.
So, what is sleep debt? It is the negative cumulative effects that occur with chronic lack of sleep. Sleep debt limits a person’s ability to focus, adversely affects the immune system, causes moodiness, chronic fatigue, temporarily lowers testosterone levels in men, and can have an adverse effect on the waistline.
As little as five nights of poor sleep can wreak havoc on our hunger cues and metabolism. New research published in the Journal of Lipid Research suggests that the tendency to overeat increases when you are sleep deprived because you feel less satiated after consuming a meal and metabolism is adversely affected because your body’s ability to process fat is slowed, causing fat to be stored more easily.
Deficient sleep is also a major cause of automobile accidents. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep deprivation can impair the ability to drive a motor vehicle as much as, or more than, alcohol.
No amount of fame or money can shield one from the adverse effects of insufficient sleep. Even high caliber athletes of the National Basketball Association (NBA) are not immune. In October 2019, an NBA executive told ESPN that sleep deprivation is the league’s biggest issue without a solution.
What is the proper amount of sleep one should strive for?
The answer will vary because everyone’s body is unique and will respond to different amounts of sleep. Optimal sleep for an adult is between seven and nine consecutive hours per day. In a 2015 report, the National Sleep Foundation identified the recommended number of sleep hours for individuals in every stage of life:
- Older adults, 65+ years: 7-8 hours
- Adults, 26-64 years: 7-9 hours
- Young adults, 18-25 years: 7-9 hours
- Teenagers, 14-17 years: 8-10 hours
- School-age children, 6-13 years: 9-11 hours
- Preschool children, 3-5 years: 10-13 hours
- Toddlers, 1-2 years: 11-14 hours
- Infants, 4-11 months: 12-15 hours
- Newborns, 0-3 months: 14-17 hours
Now that you know how long you should be sleeping, the next hurdle is how to get there.
To help you meet the recommended hours of sleep listed above, here are some healthy sleep tips from the National Sleep Foundation:
- Stick to a sleep schedule, even on weekends
- Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual
- Exercise daily
- Evaluate your bedroom to ensure ideal temperature, sound, and light
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillow
- Beware of hidden sleep stealers, like alcohol and caffeine
- Turn off electronics before bed
If good sleep eludes you, you might consider discussing your concerns with a healthcare provider who specializes in sleep medicine. Checking the license of a provider is easy when you use the California Department of Consumer Affairs’ license search tool. Visit search.dca.ca.gov.