Why is sleep so important? How much do you need? What happens when you don’t get enough? Find out more…
Why Is Sleep Important?
Waking up well-rested is a wonderful feeling, but what was your body doing while you were dozed off? Once asleep, your body starts to perform vital functions: Healing damaged cells, boosting immune function, recovering from the previous day, and recharging your brain for the new day.
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
You might have been told that you need to get seven to nine hours of sleep in order to feel your best, and that’s correct for the majority of people. However, there are factors like age, sleep quality, pregnancy, sleep debt, and your body’s need for sleep.
Ask yourself these three questions?
1. How long does it take you to fall asleep? You should be falling asleep in 15 to 20 minutes (in a perfect world). Too much sleep, anxiety, caffeine, and large meals may keep you from falling asleep normally. While nodding off before you make it to the bed might mean you’re not sleeping enough.
2. Do you need an alarm to wake you? Constantly waking up before your alarm goes off, or waking up multiple times per night (not because of bathroom breaks), your brain may be signaling you’ve had enough sleep. And if you struggle with waking up in the morning when your alarm goes off, you might need more sleep or to adjust your sleep schedule.
3. How do you feel? Keeping a journal of the time you go to bed and get up, along with how you feel throughout the day, can help you notice patterns and figure out which sleep routine works best for you. Feelings of fatigue, anxiety, or moodiness shouldn’t be ignored.
New Sleep Recommendations (2015)
Sleep needs are different for everyone and change as you age. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF), along with a multi-disciplinary expert panel, issued new recommendations for appropriate sleep durations.
- Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
- Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
- Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
- Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
- School-age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
- Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
- Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
- Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
- Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)
*The National Sleep Foundation is providing these scientifically grounded guidelines on the amount of sleep we need each night to improve the sleep health of the millions of individuals and parents who rely on us for this information.*
What Are The Negative Effects Of Not Getting Enough Sleep?
1. More Accidents
You might have seen the Mythbusters episode before: Driving groggy is as dangerous (if not more) as driving under the influence. Sleep deprivation can have serious effects on daily tasks. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates 100,000 auto crashes and 1,550 crash-related deaths happen because of fatigue.
2. Lead To Serious Health Problems
Chronic sleep loss can put you at risk for…
- Heart Attack
- Heart Failure
- Heart Disease
- Irregular Heartbeat
- High Blood Pressure
3. Kills Sex Drive
Research has found men and women who don’t get enough quality sleep have lower libidos and less interest in sex. Men who suffer from sleep apnoea also tend to have lower testosterone levels.
Lack of sleep and sleep disorders contribute to symptoms of depression over time. People diagnosed with depression or anxiety were more likely to sleep less than six hours at night.
5. Dumbs You Down
Sleep is essential when it comes to thinking and learning. Sleeping less hurts cognitive processes in many ways: impairing attention, alertness, reasoning, problem-solving, and concentration.
6. Makes You Forgetful
It’s hard to keep your memory sharp without sleep. Brain events called “sharp wave-ripples” are responsible for consolidating memory and planning. The ripples transfer information from the hippocampus to the neocortex of the brain, where long-term memories are stored.
7. Weight Gain
Lack of sleep leads to increased hunger, appetite, and possibly obesity. A study conducted in 2004 found that people who slept less than six hours per day were almost 30 percent more likely to become obese than others who slept seven to nine hours.
8. Ages Your Skin
A few nights of missed sleep can lead to a pale complexion and puffy eyes. However, chronic sleep loss can lead to dull, colorless skin, dark circles under the eyes, and more fine lines. Cortisol (a stress hormone) is released into the body when you don’t get enough sleep, and excess amounts can break down skin collagen (the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic).
9. Impairs Judgement, Especially About Sleep
Sleep deprivation can affect how we interpret events and can ruin our ability to make sound judgments. Sleep-deprived people begin to believe that they’ve adapted to their lack of sleep when their performance and alertness is on a steady decline.
10. Increase Risk Of Death
British researchers looked closer at how sleep patterns affected the mortality rate of 10,000 people over two decades. They found that those who cut their sleep from seven to five hours or fewer a night nearly doubled their risk of death from all causes.