Sleep is incredibly important, however most people do not get enough of it. Recent studies show that not getting enough sleep can have some serious implications on your health1. But just how much sleep should you be getting? According to the National Sleep Foundation, there is no set number of hours that each person should be sleeping. Every person is different and this holds true when it comes to sleep2.
The National Sleep Foundation breaks sleep into two categories – basal sleep need and sleep debt. Basal sleep need is the amount of sleep your body needs on a regular basis for best performance. Sleep debt is described as the accumulated sleep that you lose due to poor sleeping habits, illness, and waking during the night2. According to two studies, healthy adults have a basal sleep need between seven and eight hours every night however, you need to factor in your sleep debt. For instance, you might fall asleep at 10pm and wake up at 6am, meeting the basal sleep need but you woke up several times in the middle of the night to go to the restroom, get more comfortable or whatever, and this time works into your sleep debt. There are also times during the day – mid-afternoon and overnight hours – where your body is programmed to be more tired. If you don’t sleep during these times it also goes into your sleep debt2. How are you ever supposed to get the sleep you need? The good news is your body knows when it needs sleep and you can “work off” your sleep debt by getting extra, restful sleep occasionally.
So what happens if you don’t “work off” your sleep debt and you continue to run on little sleep? Research done on people who have had too little sleep has shown links to 2:
• Increased risk of car accidents
• Increase in body mass index – a higher chance of obesity due to an increased appetite
• Increased risk of diabetes
• Increased risk of heart problems
• Increased risk for psychiatric conditions
• Decreased attention span, reflexes and retaining new information
The flip side to not getting enough sleep is getting too much sleep, which can be just as harmful as not getting enough. Although there isn’t any current research to indicate serious health risks with sleeping too much, researchers have found that too much sleep can lead to illness and accidents2. It’s like a bell curve – too little isn’t optimal but neither is too much. There’s a happy medium for everyone, and luckily your body typically knows what that point is.
It’s important to remember that your sleep needs change with age. Young children and elderly need more sleep than adults. If you’re ill or recovering from a medical condition you’ll probably need more sleep than you do when you’re 100% healthy.
Many people suffer from sleep disorders. If you have a hard time falling asleep or wake in the middle of the night wide awake, unable to fall back asleep you may suffer from a sleep disorder known as Insomnia3. If you feel you fall into this category, it’s important to speak with your physician. There are medications that you can take to help you get more restful sleep.
The best advice is to pay attention to your body, if you’re struggling to keep your eyes open, go to bed! If you’ve had a long, stressful week then take the weekend to sleep until your body decides it doesn’t need any more.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The information provided in this blog is intended for general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. If you have any questions regarding a medical condition, seek the advice of your physician or a qualified health care provider.