How Much Sleep Do We Need? Explore the Benefits Of and How to Get A Good Night’s Rest

Picture of How Much Sleep Do We Need? Explore the Benefits Of and How to Get A Good Night’s Rest
Photo: Vera Kratochvil
By Cynthia Dalton
Tired minds don’t plan well. Sleep first, plan later. — Walter Reisch

How Much Sleep Do We Need?

According to the APA (American Psychological Association):

Everyone’s individual sleep needs vary. In general, most healthy adults are built for 16 hours of wakefulness and need an average of eight hours of sleep a night. However, some individuals are able to function without sleepiness or drowsiness after as little as six hours of sleep. Others can't perform at their peak unless they've slept ten hours. And, contrary to common myth, the need for sleep doesn't decline with age but the ability to sleep for six to eight hours at one time may be reduced.

Why is a Good Night’s Sleep So Important?

In their article, 10 Reasons Why Good Sleep Is Important, Healthline explains that along with nutrition and exercise, good sleep is essential for good health:

A good night's sleep is incredibly important for health. In fact, it is just as important as eating healthy and exercising. Unfortunately, the Western environment is interfering with natural sleep patterns. People are now sleeping less than they did in the past, and sleep quality has decreased as well.

Healthline outlines 10 reasons why good sleep is so important:

  1. Poor Sleep Can Make You Fat.
  2. Good Sleepers Tend to Eat Fewer Calories.
  3. Good Sleep Can Improve Concentration and Productivity.
  4. Good Sleep Can Maximize Athletic Performance.
  5. Poor Sleepers Have a Greater Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke.
  6. Sleep Affects Glucose Metabolism and Type 2 Diabetes Risk.
  7. Poor Sleep Is Linked to Depression.
  8. Sleep Improves Your Immune Function.
  9. Poor Sleep Is Linked to Increased Inflammation.
  10. Sleep Affects Emotions and Social Interactions.

What Causes Sleep Problems?

According to the APA many factors cause sleep difficulties including, psychological problems, physical factors (such as chronic pain), and environmental factors.

Additionally, the APA states:

Stress is the number one cause of short-term sleeping difficulties, according to sleep experts. Common triggers include school- or job-related pressures, a family or marriage problem and a serious illness or death in the family. Usually the sleep problem disappears when the stressful situation passes. However, if short-term sleep problems such as insomnia aren't managed properly from the beginning, they can persist long after the original stress has passed. Drinking alcohol or beverages containing caffeine in the afternoon or evening, exercising close to bedtime, following an irregular morning and nighttime schedule, and working or doing other mentally intense activities right before or after getting into bed can disrupt sleep. If you are among the 20 percent of employees in the United States who are shift workers, sleep may be particularly elusive. Shift work forces you to try to sleep when activities around you — and your own "biological rhythms" — signal you to be awake. One study shows that shift workers are two to five times more likely than employees with regular, daytime hours to fall asleep on the job. Traveling also disrupts sleep, especially jet lag and traveling across several time zones. This can upset your biological or “circadian” rhythms.

What Can You Do to Get a Better Night Sleep?

The APA explains:

According to leading sleep researchers, there are techniques to combat common sleep problems:

  • Keep a regular sleep/wake schedule.
  • Don’t drink or eat caffeine four to six hours before bed and minimize daytime use.
  • Don’t smoke, especially near bedtime or if you awake in the night.
  • Avoid alcohol and heavy meals before sleep.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Minimize noise, light, and excessive hot and cold temperatures where you sleep.
  • Develop a regular bed time and go to bed at the same time each night.
  • Try and wake up without an alarm clock.
  • Attempt to go to bed earlier every night for certain period; this will ensure that you’re getting enough sleep.

What Are the Health Benefits of Good Sleep?

Alyssa Sparacino, writing for Health, states, “Sleep makes you feel better, but its importance goes way beyond just boosting your mood or banishing under-eye circles. Adequate sleep is a key part of a healthy lifestyle, and can benefit your heart, weight, mind, and more.”

Check out Ms. Sparacino’s article, 11 Surprising Health Benefits of Sleep, which discusses such benefits as: improved memory, better grades, spurring creativity, avoiding accidents, and steering clear of depression, among other health benefits.

What do you think?

  • Do you feel you get enough sleep?
  • Do you agree that, along with nutrition and exercise, sleep is vital for good health?

What tips would you suggest for getting a better night’s sleep?


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