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What Is A Healthy Amount Of Sleep? Are You Getting Sufficient?

What is a healthy amount of sleep? Does it vary by gender, by age or by any other factors? In this article we’ll examine these questions and sleep in general…

Sleep is one of those things that’s so fundamental to our lives, that most of us seldom tend to take it for granted, and yet it’s absolutely essential for our good health, both physical and mental. Even though we don’t give sleep much thought, probably most of us have wondered at some point just what is a healthy amount of sleep and am I getting a sufficient amount of sleep myself?

We spend up to one third of our lives asleep, and the state of our sleep is a vital indicator to our overall health and well-being.  Unfortunately these days most of us do not get sufficient sleep, and the sleep we do get is frequently of poor quality. By poor quality, I mean that it’s shallow and disturbed, rather than being deep and restful. The modern world intrudes into our lives more and more and in doing so also intrudes into our sleep.

How Much Sleep Do We Need

The healthy amount of sleep for any one group of individuals is never going to be exact, it’s always going to be something of a rule of thumb. However, having said that, the National Sleep Foundation spent two years developing a study to determine how much sleep we really need and the overall state of the nation’s sleep health. This study superseded an earlier one and reflects the current state of medical thinking. The findings are summarized into this list:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
  • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
  • Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
  • School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)

Individual Variations In Sleep Requirements

As noted above though, sleep requirements vary from individual to individual. So it’s important that you also assess your own individual needs to determine what is a healthy amount of sleep for you personally. Try giving thought to some of these questions:

  • Are you feeling well rested, happy and healthy with seven hours sleep, or are you much better with something like 8-9 hours?
  • Are you overweight or obese? This is often linked to insufficient sleep or poor quality sleep?
  • Are you needing frequent cups of coffee to help get you through the day?
  • Do you ever feel sleepy while driving? This one obviously has potentially lethal implications
  • Do you often find yourself becoming irritable or angry for no real reason?

All of these can be indicators or poor sleep health, and should  help activate you into taking steps to improve it.

Make Sleep A Priority

Because we tend to give sleep little thought probably most of us assume we’re getting a healthy amount of sleep and just leave it at that. But the National Sleep Foundation says that we should be making sleep a priority in our lives and not just take it for granted, because it really is just so fundamental to our whole lives.

So if you or a family member are experiencing sleep issues such as snoring, excessive tiredness during the day, insomnia, cramps or tingling in the legs during the day or excess weight that just won’t go away then you really should be consulting your doctor or a sleep professional.

It’s also recommended to keep a “sleep diary”  for a period of at least a month, where you record the length and quality of your sleep each night and take that along to the appropriate health professional.

Here are some easy tips you can try to use to improve your sleep quality:

  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule, even at the weekends
  • Avoid things like alcohol and caffeine for at least three hours before going to bed
  • Exercise a little every day
  • Switch off any electronics in the bedroom
  • Avoid any electronic screen devices like phones, computers and tv’s for at least an hour prior to sleep
  • Male sure your room is warm but also well ventilated
  • Are your pillows and mattress comfortable? Replace them if not

Here’s something I hadn’t thought of before – sleep music. Having some soft, relaxing music playing very quietly in that background is said to greatly improve sleep quality, and there are many specialized tracks available for just this purpose. This one has been viewed on YouTube 47 million times, so they must have got something right:

I hope that you’ve found at least some of this article interesting and useful. Right now I’m heading off to bed… Zzzzzzz

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