“I just don’t feel like myself if I don’t get enough sleep.” If you haven’t said that yourself, you’ve definitely heard someone else say it. In more ways than one, the science bears that idea out: without a good night’s sleep, we miss out on more than relaxation. Our bodies need time to rest and recover every day. Without rest we essentially treat ourselves like an engine that never turns off; eventually something blows.
In our fast-paced digital world, life feels like a perpetual struggle to catch up on sleep. Anyone looking to fix their sleep issues need to ask themselves, what is “enough sleep”? How much sleep does a person truly need? In this blog we’ll discuss these questions and offer tips for improving your sleep quality.
Recommendations by Age Group
In the table that follows, we outline the CDC recommended hours of sleep, by age group.
Notice that the hours of sleep we require wanes with age. That said, no one-size-fits-all solution to the question of your nightly sleep exists. Some need more, others need less sleep regardless of age and other general standards. Take this table as a guide, but not as universal truth. Adjust according to your needs, within reason. So long as you don’t try to live off 2, or claim to need 15 hours of sleep each night, your experience and preference should dictate how you apply the general standards.
According to the CDC, “the ideal amount of sleep required each night can vary between different individuals due to genetic factors and other reasons, and it is important to adapt our recommendations on a case by case basis.”
A few of specific sleep facts to bear in mind:
- During the first 3 months of pregnancy, women often need more sleep
- Growing bodies tend to exert more energy and tend to need more rest
- Older adults tend to have a harder time falling asleep and more trouble staying asleep
In addition to the things mentioned so far, to decide how much sleep you personally need, always take note of when you feel best after waking up. A sleep diary will help you establish good sleep habits. Count your sleep hours, consider the routine that came before sleep, what you did the day before, how you woke up, and so on. Take your experience, and find a way to generalize it into a better sleep schedule.
You Cannot Easily Make Up Lost Sleep
It’s fairly easy to accumulate a sleep debt, however a Harvard study has shown that catching up on sleep is nearly impossible. Let’s say, for example, you sleep for 6 hours per night for 2 weeks. Then, to catch up on sleep, you sleep extra 10 hours over the weekend. The study shows that your reaction times and ability to focus become worse after this whiplash of sleep schedules than if you were to pull an all-nighter.
One of the issues with the “catching up on sleep” method, is that quantity is not the only factor. Without high quality sleep, any quantity won’t satisfy your body’s needs. Completing 4-6 full REM (rapid eye movement) cycles during the night (roughly 1 hour each) should always be the goal. REM does not begin until 90 minutes after first falling asleep. So, getting enough REM cycles requires sleeping soundly and without serious interruption through the duration of almost the entire night. Catching up on sleep implies any sleep will do, but only quality REM sleep gives the body what it craves.
Sleep Affects Your Health
Sleep has far-reaching effects on the body and the mind. On the CDC’s podcast “A Cup of Health with CDC,” Dr. Anne Wheaton stated, “Long term insufficient sleep is associated with chronic conditions including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease and stroke, and poor mental health.”
If you happen to suffer from any of those health issues, it may be difficult to accurately trace their origin back to your sleep schedule. Just know, poor sleep contributes to many health problems in the long run. In the short run, sleep deprivation affects us as well. For example, everyone knows a lack of sleep often makes people irritable or cranky. However, it can also lead to difficulty focusing or forgetfulness. Grumpiness and/or foggy brain are both symptomatic of sleep problems.
Improving the Quality of Your Sleep
Although the “perfect amount of sleep” differs from person to person, several factors can affect your sleep whether you realize it or not. To get closer to hitting your ideal number of hours to sleep every night, try these tips.
- Avoid Electronics: The blue light emitted by digital screens has been shown to mimic the sun, and slow the production of melatonin—the natural chemical that makes you drowsy. This problem can affect anyone of any age. Avoid screens for at least 1 hour before bedtime.For additional help combatting blue light, check out GUNNAR’s blue light blocking glasses. Their patented lens technology provides proven protection from harmful blue light at any time of day.
- Your Environment: Are you comfortable on your mattress? Is your home a comfortable temperature? Are their noises bothering you? Consider essential elements of your environment and how they might affect your sleep. In the following video made by the National Sleep Foundation, Dr. Natalie Dautovich describes how your sleeping position may affect your quality of sleep:
- Balanced Diet: Eat a balanced diet of healthy and wholesome foods. Healthy diet, healthy body; healthy body, healthy sleep.
- Exercise: Besides the obvious health benefits (like those that come from a balanced diet), exercise helps burn excess energy. For some, extra energy before bedtime poses a problem. Try going for a run sometime before bed, preferably an hour or two at least.
- Consistent Bedtime and Nightly Routine (Yes, for adults too): Establishing a bedtime routine is key! Go to bed at the same time every night. Do the same things before bed. Be consistent. This will help your body wind down at the end of the day and prepare to sleep. Bedtime isn’t just for kids!
Whether you’re worried about yourself, or your children, there is hope for better sleep health. Try the sleep tips listed above, and don’t give up! Figuring out what works best in your home will take time.
To get started today, be sure to check out the full range of blue light blocking glasses from GUNNAR. For adults, the Intercept frame is a classic look for everyday wear and is available with the Amber Max lens which offers 98% Blue Light protection, geared toward improving sleep. For restless children, the latest Cruz Kids by GUNNAR line was specially designed to protect young eyes.