By Stella Vasileiadou,
Shift work? Sleep apnea? Meeting deadlines? Too noisy sleeping environment? Devices next to you or even falling asleep by using them? Feeling like you need some sleep?
It is strongly believed that 1 in 3 adults does not get enough sleep. Even if you eat well and exercise regularly, but do not get at least seven hours of sleep every night, you may be undermining all of your other efforts. Sleep should be a priority for you and for your health.
How much sleep do we actually need?
Although the right amount of sleep can vary from person to person, it is recommended that adults should get approximately 7 hours each night. According to a 2 years research of the National Sleep Foundation you can find out exactly how much sleep you need based on your age. For instance, the ideal hours of sleep would be:
- Older adults, 65+ years: 7 to 8 hours.
- Adults, 26 to 64 years: 7 to 9 hours.
- Young adults, 18 to 25 years: 7 to 9 hours.
- Teenagers, 14 to 17 years: 8 to 10 hours.
- School-age children, 6 to 13 years: 9 to 11 hours.
- Preschool children, 3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours.
- Toddlers, 1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours.
- Infants, 4 to 11 months: 12 to 15 hours.
- Newborns, 0 to 3 months: 14 to 17 hours.
The effects of sleep deprivation on the body and mind
First of all, the most common effect of lack of sleep is depression, while insomnia (a sleep disorder characterized by trouble falling and staying asleep) is said to be one of the first symptoms of depression. Even missing as little as 1.5 hours can have an impact on how you feel. It can also cause relationship stress and problems with your family, friends or partner. That being said, by sleeping less, the odds are that you will feel moody and have conflicts with others.
Another “side-effect” of sleep deprivation is that the brain really struggles to function properly. Because they do not have time to recuperate, neurons have to work too much and are less capable of optimal performance in numerous types of thinking. As a result, your ability to concentrate and pay attention to what you are doing is being hurt by the lack of sleep. Undoubtedly, this makes learning, problem-solving, creativity, emotional processing, and judgment much more difficult tasks for you. Plus, some experts claim that learning or even revising is more efficient during the night and that if you do not get enough sleep, you won’t be able to remember what you learned and experienced during the day.
Last but not least, not getting enough sleep could be responsible for many health issues. That being said, if you do not sleep the right amount of hours you might be prone to infections and illnesses, and even respiratory diseases. Your immune system is fed by sleep. Also, lack of sleep is said to a serious cause for weight gain, cardiovascular diseases, and even infertility.
A few things you can do to improve your sleep routine
One thing you could do is set a goal of going to bed and waking up at the same time every single day. In other words, you could “reprogram” your brain. Also, you should try to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle: get regular exercise during the day, limit your daily intake of caffeine and alcohol and have a light meal before going to bed (but not right before). And of course, do not forget to turn off electronic devices and keep them away from the sleeping area.
- How Lack of Sleep Impacts Cognitive Performance and Focus, SleepFoundation, Available here.
- The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Your Body, Healthline.org, Available here.
- Here’s What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep (And How Much You Really Need a Night), Cleveland Clinic, Available here.