Much Sleep Do We Need?
of sleep each person needs depends on many factors, including
age. Infants generally require about 16 hours a day, while
teenagers need about nine hours on average. For most adults,
seven to eight hours a night appears to be the best amount
of sleep, although some people may need as few as five hours
or as many as 10 hours of sleep each day. Women in the first
three months of pregnancy often need several more hours of
sleep than usual.
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 judgement, 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 ageing, 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 five minutes of lying down, you probably
have severe sleep deprivation, possibly even a sleep disorder.
Micro sleeps, 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 micro
for a Good Night's Sleep:
Set a schedule:
*Go to bed at a set time each night and get up at the same
time each morning.
*Disrupting this schedule may lead to insomnia. "Sleeping
in" on weekends also makes it harder to wake up early
on Monday morning because it re-sets your sleep cycles for
a later awakening.
*Try to exercise 20 to 30 minutes a day. Daily exercise often
helps people sleep, although a workout soon before bedtime
may interfere with sleep. For maximum benefit, try to get
your exercise about five to six hours before going to bed.
caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol:
*Avoid drinks that contain caffeine, which acts as a stimulant
and keeps people awake. Sources of caffeine include coffee,
chocolate, soft drinks, non-herbal teas, diet drugs, and some
pain relievers. Smokers tend to sleep very lightly and often
wake up in the early morning due to nicotine withdrawal. Alcohol
robs people of deep sleep and REM sleep and keeps them in
the lighter stages of sleep.
*A warm bath, reading, or another relaxing routine can make
it easier to fall sleep. You can train yourself to associate
certain restful activities with sleep and make them part of
your bedtime ritual.
*If possible, wake up with the sun, or use very bright lights
in the morning. Sunlight helps the body's internal biological
clock reset itself each day. Sleep experts recommend exposure
to an hour of morning sunlight for people having problems
lie in bed awake:
*If you can't get to sleep, don't just lie in bed. Do something
else, like reading, watching television, or listening to music,
until you feel tired. The anxiety of being unable to fall
asleep can actually contribute to insomnia.
your room temperature:
*Maintain a comfortable temperature in the bedroom.
*Extreme temperatures may disrupt sleep or prevent you from
a doctor if your sleeping problem continues:
*If you have trouble falling asleep night after night, or
if you always feel tired the next day, then you may have a
sleep disorder and should see a physician. Your primary care
physician may be able to help you; if not, you can probably
find a sleep specialist at a major hospital near you. Most
sleep disorders can be treated effectively, so you can finally
get that good night's sleep you need.