of sleep each person needs depends on many factors, including
age. Infants generally require about 16 hours a day, while
teenagers need about 9 hours on average. For most adults,
7 to 8 hours a night appears to be the best amount of sleep,
although some people may need as few as 5 hours or as many
as 10 hours of sleep each day. Women in the first 3 months
of pregnancy often need several more hours of sleep than usual.
The amount of sleep a person needs also increases if he or
she has been deprived of sleep in previous days. Getting too
little sleep creates a "sleep debt," which is much
like being overdrawn at a bank. Eventually, your body will
demand that the debt be repaid. We don't seem to adapt to
getting less sleep than we need; while we may get used to
a sleep-depriving schedule, our judgment, reaction time, and
other functions are still impaired.
tend to sleep more lightly and for shorter time spans as they
get older, although they generally need about the same amount
of sleep as they needed in early adulthood. About half of
all people over 65 have frequent sleeping problems, such as
insomnia, and deep sleep stages in many elderly people often
become very short or stop completely. This change may be a
normal part of aging, or it may result from medical problems
that are common in elderly people and from the medications
and other treatments for those problems.
say that if you feel drowsy during the day, even during boring
activities, you haven't had enough sleep. If you routinely
fall asleep within 5 minutes of lying down, you probably have
severe sleep deprivation, possibly even a sleep disorder.
Microsleeps, or very brief episodes of sleep in an otherwise
awake person, are another mark of sleep deprivation. In many
cases, people are not aware that they are experiencing microsleeps.
The widespread practice of "burning the candle at both
ends" in western industrialized societies has created
so much sleep deprivation that what is really abnormal sleepiness
is now almost the norm.
make it clear that sleep deprivation is dangerous. Sleep-deprived
people who are tested by using a driving simulator or by performing
a hand-eye coordination task perform as badly as or worse
than those who are intoxicated. Sleep deprivation also magnifies
alcohol's effects on the body, so a fatigued person who drinks
will become much more impaired than someone who is well-rested.
Driver fatigue is responsible for an estimated 100,000 motor
vehicle accidents and 1500 deaths each year, according to
the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Since
drowsiness is the brain's last step before falling asleep,
driving while drowsy can - and often does - lead to disaster.
Caffeine and other stimulants cannot overcome the effects
of severe sleep deprivation. The National Sleep Foundation
says that if you have trouble keeping your eyes focused, if
you can't stop yawning, or if you can't remember driving the
last few miles, you are probably too drowsy to drive safely.
article was first published in YahooHealth