How Much Sleep Is Enough?
The National Sleep Foundation has published a list of guidelines for all age groups. Children, babies, and teenagers tend to require more sleep to support their development.
Though needs vary between individuals, experts tend to agree on the following ranges:
- Newborns: 14 – 17 hours
- Infants: 12 – 15 hours
- Toddlers: 11 – 14 hours
- School-aged children: 9 – 11 hours
- Teenagers: 8 – 10 hours
- Adults and young adults: 7 – 9 hours
- Older adults: 7 – 8 hours
These are all just guidelines; I explain to my patients that if you feel tired the next day, you most likely are not getting enough sleep.
Without adequate sleep, neither our physiological or psychological functions would work properly. Our ability to feel, function, and perform everyday activities depend on the amount and quality of sleep we get.
But getting more sleep doesn’t consistently deliver benefits. Too much sleep often produces the same results as sleep deprivation. Poor quality sleep affects our ability to work, learn, focus, react, and interact with others in a meaningful way, making us feel irritable, frustrated, anxious, or disconnected. Plus, with prolonged sleep disruption, our immune system does not fully function, and our bodies are less able to fight off illness and disease.
Circadian rhythm is your 24-hour internal body clock. It is a natural process by which your body adapts to its environment. Circadian rhythms are naturally attuned to light and dark, telling your brain and body how to respond at certain times of the day.
Circadian rhythm is correlated with light, because the hypothalamus—a cluster of cells in the brain—uses light to determine whether it’s day or night. To promote restful sleep, experts recommend using low light in the bedroom and limiting screen time before sleep.
Sleep and Physical Health
Poor sleep habits are as detrimental to your wellbeing as activities we perceive to be ‘actively harmful’ to the body. At the very least, such habits play a role in exacerbating such issues. According to the Centers for Disease Control, not sleeping for 24 hours is the same as having a blood-alcohol level of .10 percent, which is higher than the legal driving limit in every state.
Sleep deprivation can be especially harmful to people with diabetes, as it could cause an insulin response, lowering glucose tolerance and potentially leading to poor health outcomes.
Lack of sleep weakens the immune system, making it easier to get sick and harder to recover. Over the long term, a sleep-deprived individual is at increased risk for chronic conditions like diabetes mellitus, lung disease, and heart disease.
Adverse Effects of Sleep Deprivation
After one day of lost sleep, most will experience:
- Brain fog
- Increased risk of injury
- Puffy eyes/dark circles
- Food cravings
If sleep deprivation continues for 36 hours, these symptoms will worsen. Parts of your brain will have trouble communicating impulses, affecting your cognition, memory, behavior, decision-making, reaction time, and ability to process information.
Severely sleep-deprived individuals may experience bouts of ‘microsleep’ – brief periods where you doze off only to jolt awake. This is extremely dangerous if you’re not in a safe environment, as driving, operating machinery, and even walking are potential hazards.
Physiologically, you’ll notice symptoms including inflammatory response, increased appetite, and a decrease in immune function, making it more difficult for your body to fight off disease.
After 48 hours without sleep, you might begin to have visual or auditory hallucinations. Stress levels increase, as will your ability to relate to others.
Once three days have passed without sleep, the hallucinations may become delusions. Your thinking is disordered, and the hallucinations become more complex.
While these are extreme examples of what lack of sleep does to our brains and bodies, it illustrates the breakdown of everyday functions and how they impact our daily lives.
May is Better Sleep Month!
If you struggle with poor sleep quality, here are a few tips on how to improve it. Maintaining healthy sleep habits will help you look, feel, and perform better for whatever might come your way.
Tips For Getting A Better Sleep
Here are a few better sleep tips you can put into action tonight:
- Screens off at least three hours before bed. Blue light tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daytime. If you have a hard time with this tip, consider blue-blocking glasses or download a blue-blocking app.
- Maintain complete darkness in your bedroom. If you haven’t got adequate curtains, invest in an eye mask and earplugs.
- Turn down the thermostat. A cooler bedroom temperature improves sleep quality.
- Avoid eating late at night.
- Do not consume caffeine at least three hours before bedtime.
- Don’t take afternoon naps.
- Keep to a schedule. Try to wake and sleep at the same time every day.
- Go to bed earlier instead of sleeping later.
- Don’t drink alcohol before bed.
- Do not drink liquids before bed.
- Get adequate exercise—but not before bed!
- Replace your bedding, mattress, or pillow.
A good night’s sleep has so many benefits to your health and wellbeing. If you are having trouble reaching your health goals, your sleep quality is always a good place to start.
“It is important to get not just “enough sleep”, but enough quality sleep. Monitoring for sleep apnea (where one will often gasp for air and wake themselves up), making sure that your bedroom is set up as a restful oasis, AND making healthy sleep a priority can lead to a healthier and much more productive life." - Dr. Joseph Kandel
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If you have any questions about Sleep or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact the Neurology Office for more help.
Neurology Office, Joseph Kandel M.D. and Associates
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