How much sleep do you really need?
It’s an age old question that, until very recently, was commonly answered with “you can never have too much sleep.” Studies conducted in the past few years, however, have shed new light on the number of hours of sleep you need every night. In fact, sleep deprivation can be just as detrimental to your health as oversleeping.
According to researchers Michael H. Bonnet and Donna L. Arand, “There is strong evidence that sufficient shortening or disturbance of the sleep process compromises mood, performance and alertness and can result in injury or death. In this light, the most common sense ‘do no injury’ medical advice would be to avoid sleep deprivation.”
More controversial, however, may be new findings that suggest oversleeping can be just as harmful as undersleeping. Researchers have found that people who sleep more than 9 hours per night on a regular basis were just as susceptible to negative health effects as those who received fewer than 7 hours of rest per night. According to the National Sleep Foundation, too little (or too much) rest can be linked to:
Increased risk of drowsy driving
Increase in body mass index – a greater likelihood of obesity due to an increased appetite caused by sleep deprivation
Increased risk of diabetes and heart problems
Increased risk for psychiatric conditions including depression and substance abuse
Decreased ability to pay attention, react to signals or remember new information
Due to the fact that research regarding oversleeping is still in its infancy, many researchers are still hesitant to definitively conclude that too much rest is harmful. Kristen L. Knutson, PhD of the Department of Health Studies, University of Chicago is quick to note that “there is laboratory evidence that short sleep durations of 4-5 hours have negative physiological and neurobehavioral consequences. We need similar laboratory and intervention studies to determine whether long sleep durations (if they can be obtained) result in physiological changes that could lead to disease before we make any recommendations against sleep extension.”
One thing is for certain, however. Keeping a regular sleep schedule that allows you between 7 and 9 hours of rest per night is currently the most effective way to stave off unwanted health problems.
4 Tips For A Good Night’s Sleep
In order to achieve the optimal 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, it is recommended that you follow a few simple guidelines.
Be consistent with your sleep timing. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (even on the weekends, if you can)
Don’t eat for at least 2 hours before bedtime. Going to bed on a full stomach can slow down the natural process your body takes to fall asleep
Set up an exercise routine and quit smoking (if you smoke)
When you are ready to go to bed, make sure your room is quiet, comfortable and free from unwanted distractions (television, music and so on
As our lives become busier and busier, keeping a regular schedule becomes more and more difficult. The importance of receiving enough rest, however, cannot be understated.
Make your sleep schedule a priority this New Year, your body and mind will thank you.
Source: The National Sleep Foundation