The National Sleep Foundation performed a telephone survey of Americans that indicated at least 85% of all Americans are not getting enough sleep. Each person requires a different amount of sleep to be healthy and feel well. I know that sleep is one thing my doctor has complained about with me for months now, saying I don’t get enough sleep to properly recuperate and heal my body.
Sleep is that critical for living a healthy and happy lifestyle. Your body heals when you sleep. Minor aches and pains can improve, mood can be elevated, and you just feel better all the way around when you get the proper amount of sleep. In fact, as many of you may know, too much sleep can make you feel groggy and lethargic!
So how much sleep is enough sleep?
As stated earlier, it is different for each person. In fact, sleep requirements differ by age and body health as well. For a typical, healthy adult, sleeping at least six hours per day but not more than nine hours per day is recommended for optimal performance and health. The National Sleep Foundation indicated that people who only sleep four to five hours per day or who sleep in short spurts show a negative impact on their health and behavior. Fortunately, there doesn’t seem to be long term negative consequences to sleeping too much.
How can I tell if I’m getting enough sleep for my body?
It really is quite simple to determine if you’re getting enough sleep. Do you wake up feeling refreshed and energized, or tired and groggy? Do you often wake up naturally or are you forcing yourself out of bed to the ringing of the alarm clock after hitting the snooze button several times? Do you become sleepy and lethargic during the day, particularly in the mid-afternoon? Do you suffer from aches and pains that have no physical explanation? Do you find that you are grumpy and short tempered during the day with no real explanation for that mood?
All of these things may be a sign of not getting enough sleep. If you suffer from depression or other mood disorders, you’ll likely find that these conditions are worse when you are lacking in quality sleep. When you are ill or have an injury, you’ll also find your body requires more sleep than it would when you are not.
The main way to tell if you’re getting enough sleep is to be sure to get 6-8 hours of sleep each night, and then judge how you feel, how your body feels, and how tired you are, and adjust your sleep schedule until you are waking fully rested each morning.
Sleep Deficit? What’s a sleep deficit?
When you regularly do not get enough sleep, your body stores up a sleep deficit, so that you may find yourself on a weekend doing what I like to call a ‘crash and burn’ where you will fall asleep and not wake for 10-12 hours!
This is your body’s way of trying to ‘catch up’ on the sleep it’s been lacking and storing up a deficit. At some point, you’re body has to make up for this lost sleep, and you will find that when you’ve stored up a sleep deficit, it can take several days of restful, quality sleep to make up for the deficit.
I’m sleeping more than six to eight hours per night, but I still don’t feel rested.
Just going to bed and sleeping is not necessarily enough to get the quality of sleep you need. Your body and muscles repair and heal themselves when you’re sleeping, but for this to happen, you generally have to be asleep solid for four or more continuous hours, and you need to be in the quality deep sleep that allows for healing.
It’s possible that you may sleep through the night, but for some reason, you are not ever reaching that deeper restorative sleep required to feel rested.
So what should I do to sleep better?
First, you want to try to lower any disturbances that might affect your sleep. I know, I’ve heard and even said it myself, that I sleep better with some noise, or the television or radio on. The truth is, you won’t sleep better with that type of noise. Your brain will still be hearing and processing sounds even if you are asleep, so the television and radio will not help you sleep better.
If you must have sound, try white noise, such as the static on a between stations played lowly in the background, or have a fan on in the room to drown out other noises. If you must, buy an environmental sounds generator. If you simply cannot fall asleep without the television or radio, get a timer for it so that once you actually fall asleep, the noise stops and allows your brain to rest too.
Cut off eating at least two to three hours before you go to bed. Not only will this help with sleeping better because your body will be mostly finished digesting and ready to sleep, but it will also help with your metabolism and if you are needing to watch your weight, this is important. Try to use the restroom before going to bed and don’t drink anything an hour or so prior to going to sleep.
Keep the room dark and at a cool and comfortable temperature. If you must have light in the room, use a small blue glow light and put it out of the line of your vision so it’s not shining on your eyes while you sleep.
Avoid caffeine and spicy foods close to bedtime, and it’s best to stop any caffeine after lunchtime for the best sleep. Alcohol prior to bedtime can also disrupt sleep, even though you may feel it helps make you sleepy.
I have done all these things, but I still don’t feel rested. What should I do?
If you have are having trouble falling asleep or find you wake frequently during the night, you may have insomnia or some other sleep disturbance and you should visit your health care professional to discuss options. Sleep apnea and snoring can interrupt quality sleep. Stress, injury and tension can disrupts sleep and certain mood and mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, can also affect sleep.
If you’ve done everything you know to get a good, restful night’s sleep, but you find you just can’t get enough rest or wake tired or are lethargic during the day, it’s time to visit your doctor or health care professional to discover if there is a physical condition that is preventing quality sleep.
Sleep sweet and sweet dreams!