How Many Hours of Sleep Do You Need?

alarm clock for sleeping hours

Did you know that the quality of sleep you have at night has an impact on how you can perform and feel during the day? Perhaps, if you find that sleepiness is taking the better part of your life, then it means that you are not getting sufficient sleep. The quality of sleep you get has a direct influence on the quality of life you will lead and impacts on your emotional balance, productivity, weight, physical vitality as well as creativity. Most of the times, we cut back the number of hours we sleep to meet our busy schedules. However, we fail to understand that sleep deprivation is a form of torture to your body. In fact, even a minimal?loss of sleep can affect?your motor and cognition skills. Enough sleep is not a luxury but a necessity!

Most of us have several myths about sleep. Most people believe that the body can adjust quickly to different sleeping patterns. In reality though, this does not hold true for the majority of the population. Some of us do indeed?have different sleeping needs, but on average we’re all very alike when it comes to the slumber game. A lucky few?may be?capable of resetting their biological sleeping clocks based faster than others. Even so, they can still build up a sleep deficit, just like those who do not possess that unique attribute. The fact is that you need to pay attention to the number of hours you sleep in order to avoid excessive fatigue and a host of other ill effects. But how many hours of sleep do you need?

In determining the number of hours you need to sleep, several factors come to play. Studies have shown that the amount of sleep varies significantly from one person to another. Studies done by the National Institute of Health indicates that an average adult in today?s busy and fast-paced lifestyle sleeps for about seven hours. However, this is no good at all. In fact, it is an invitation for chronic sleep disorders. Some of the top factors you need to consider when determining the number of hours of sleep include:

  • Previous sleep debt
  • Age
  • Sleep environment
  • Pregnancy

Previous Sleep Debt

young man with a sleep debt

A sleep debt is no joke!

Sleep debt is the difference between the quantity of sleep you need based on your age and that sleep you had last night. Your sleep debt increases every other time you deprive yourself enough sleep. But did you know that you need to repay this debt? If you lose an hour of sleep tonight, make up for that time during the day to compensate the loss. Though it does not adequately fill in the gap, it helps in your recovery period. Most of us wait for weekends to make up for the lost sleep. However, it is not easy to pay off a sleep debt on a weekend or one night. It is good for you to target at least seven hours of sleep each night. If you can find an extra one hour or two per night, you can use it to help settle your debt.

Age

Now, we all know that sleep changes with age. However, does it change for good or worse? And have you woken up one morning feeling that you didn?t sleep long enough ? How much sleep is enough for you? Consider these sleeping guidelines for different age brackets.

hours of sleep by age

Source: National Sleep Foundation

From the table above, you can see that an adult needs an average sleep of 7.5 to 9 hours. There is a notion that the need for sleep decreases with age–but this is only true up to the point at which one transitions from adolescence into full adulthood. Research shows that the older people experience troubles falling asleep which means that they tend to build up a sleep debt over time. This leads to much daytime drowsiness and is one of the reasons why the elderly oftentimes appear tired during waking hours. Daytime naps can help fill in?the sleeping gaps.

There are several signals and red flags that can show whether you are getting sufficient sleep. If you?re feeling alert and energetic all day long, then it means you are getting sufficient sleep. But if you feel dizzy and sleepy, then you need to evaluate your sleeping patterns. Age is a major factor that determines the amount of sleep you need to remain healthy.

Sleep Environment and Sleep Quality

no electronics before bed

Unplug…from everything!

In sum, sleep is a dynamic activity. Sleep studies?show that we pass through five different stages when we are asleep. The stages go in a cycle right from stage 1,2,3/4 and Rapid Eye Movement. During stage 1, you can easily drift and be awakened as you are lightly asleep. . During stage 2, your eye movements stop, and brain waves start fluctuating. In stages 3/4, deep sleep happens and this is one of the most beneficial periods of the sleep cycle. If you are disturbed during this sleep stage, it can be hard for you to adjust immediately as you feel disoriented and groggy. If you don?t pass through these important five stages, then you are more likely to impact negatively on your health.

In this busy world we tend to enjoy staying up late with our devices and distractions, which make for a very inefficient sleep environment.?Taking care of matters of noise and temperature within the bedroom are very important to the maintenance of proper sleep habits. It is oftentimes the small things that make the difference, like setting a proper bedtime and delaying matters which may cause anxiety to the next day. Remember that the body must be prepared for sleep, in very much the same way that the mind must be geared up to undertake difficult or intensive work.

When you are deeply asleep, your body repairs and recovers from daily wear,?carrying out maintenance on a number of important biological systems. It plays a crucial role in maintaining your body and immune system. Therefore, while the number of hours you are asleep matters,?the quality of sleep you have during those hours may be even more important. Even if you get several hours to sleep but still can?t wake up early in the morning, then it means you?re not getting sufficient quality sleep.

Pregnancy

pregnant lady sleepingIt is normal for women to?experience frustrating moments during pregnancy. Dr Kathy Lee, a professor at the University of California San Francisco, did a comprehensive study on how pregnancy affects sleep. She found out that exhaustion is a common problem that most women experience during the first and third trimesters. The emotional stress that comes about during this stage can make expecting mothers?lie awake all night!

Progesterone, a sleep inducing hormone, rises through the bodies of pregnant women during the first trimester. During?this period they?may need to go to the bathroom several times making it hard for them?to remain asleep. In?this stage, there are a number of?major disturbances that?may?be experienced, but in the second trimester, they?may be able to?sleep pretty well. In fact, some?pregnant women?may even?experience an energy boost. Therefore, pregnancy does influence the number of hours and the quality of your sleep.

Remember that at this stage; expecting moms?are eating and sleeping for two. Therefore, the consequences of insufficient sleep go far beyond just exhaustion. Sleep deprivation can?also lead to irritability,?lack of concentration and could negatively?affect the health of both mother and child. Dr Lee also published the results of her study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology that mothers who sleep for less than the recommended six hours are more likely to have a C-Section. Additionally, such mothers are also more likely to have more than 10-hour labor compared to those who have sufficient 8 or more hours of sleep. When pregnant, women?need to go to bed early because they?need extra rest. It is crucial that they?obtain?the same quantity and quality of sleep as when they?were not pregnant.


Many people take for granted that important processes?happen during sleep. It definitely is a necessity that determines how healthy and active you will be during the day. Like everything else in life, take the time to do it well! You will reap the benefits in terms of good health and well-being, and an increased capacity to pursue your goals and dreams. Let your sleep work for you!

Do you have concerns about the amount and quality of the sleep you are getting each night? Drop me a line below and I’d be happy to offer some guidance.

Sleep well till next time!

–Josh.

4 Comments

  1. Dredd De Jesus

    Thank God I found this! This is a very helpful article. I had always trouble sleeping at night. And because of this, I end up sleeping late and have less energy in the morning. While I was studying for my psychology class, it talked about the importance of sleep in mental and physical health. It also talked about sleep cycles. Of course, that was a win for me because some solutions that I needed to fix this problem was there. But sometimes, you need another opinion to reinforce the information. I appreciate it for also providing info about sleep debt and the average number of hours of sleep I need to get for my age.

    Thanks!
    Dredd

    Reply
    1. Joshua (Post author)

      Hey Dredd, be sure to take this seriously! You’re pretty young, and sometimes it’s easy for adolescents to adopt a “no sleep” policy. Take it from me, I used to be called ‘vampire’. All the best in your studies, and I hope you continue to strive to get the quality of sleep your deserve. Take care!

      Reply
  2. apcountrymusic

    Great post, I never knew that sleep debt existed, but I think I paid the cost of it many times over, including nearly dying as I used to work to the wee hours of the morning have a few hours sleep then start all over again, in the end I got very sick with Leukaemia (AML) not saying that sleep deprivation was the cause, but I think a combination of stress and no sleep, may have played it’s part… Very interesting thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    1. Joshua (Post author)

      Thanks Adam, I’m happy that you found it informative! It is true that lack of sleep can really bring your body down, and one of the processes it affects is immunity. I do believe that this may have played a part in your illness, but I am happy that you survived to tell the tale! May you have many more years enjoying what you love to do (and don’t forget to get some sleep while you’re at it!).

      Reply

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