October 12, 2021 5 min read
Sleep is essential for our health and well-being. It allows our brains and bodies to recuperate, and many biological processes take place while we sleep. But what seems to be less clear is how many hours of sleep we actually need to stay healthy and function normally.
Most guidelines say adults need an average of 7-8 hours of sleep daily. Children need a bit more to develop and grow. But is this really true? And are there any individual differences we're not told about?
There’s some truth to the 7-8 hours rule. These recommendations are based on data from years of research on the links between sleep and health. However, researchers also say that these recommendations should work as a rule-of-thumb and that we need to take into account individual needs as well.
We spend about a third of our lives asleep, and something taking so much of our time has to be important.
During sleep, our brains and bodies don’t simply “shut down” for rest. Sleep is actually a highly active state during which the brain forms long-term memories and the body’s cells regenerate. And while consciousness is mostly absent during sleep — it isn't completely gone as we spend two hours each night dreaming.
In other words, a lot is happening when we doze off.
But the exact purpose and role of sleep in life remain mostly a mystery. What we do know is that sleep deprivation comes with consequences: drowsiness, poor concentration, mood swings, and chronic health problems with long-term sleep deprivation.
In other words, sleep is important because we cannot function without it. Our performance begins to decline and our health suffers when we’re sleep-deprived. Sleep is important for individual and public safety — many accidents and catastrophes have been directly linked to poor sleep.
While people need an average of 8 hours of sleep per day, the actual amount depends on a person’s age, lifestyle, and health. There’s also a huge difference between how much sleep someone needs to get by and how much is needed for optimal health.
According to The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and Sleep Research Society (SRS) consensus recommendations from 2015,adults should sleep 7 hours or more regularly to stay healthy.Sleeping less than that may put you at risk of weight gain, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, depression, impaired immunity, and accidents, according to their consensus statement.
The recommendations also state that sleeping more than 9 hours can be appropriate for young adults, people recovering from sleep debt, and people with illnesses.
The National Sleep Foundation offers similar advice. Their panel of sleep experts created sleep guidelines for each age group based on scientific data:
Newborns (0–3 months): 14-17 hours
Infants(4–12 months): 12–16 hours
Toddlers (1–2 years): 11–14 hours
Preschoolers (3–5 years): 10–13 hours
School-age (6–12 years): 9–12 hours
Teenagers (13–18 years): 8–10 hours
Adults (18–65+years) 7–9 hours
These recommendations are rough guidelines for healthy individuals who don’t have a sleep disorder. According to the panel of experts behind these recommendations, sleeping outside these ranges may be signs of health problems or could lead to health problems if done volitionally.
Some folks swear they feel rested and on less sleep than what is recommended. But chances are they’ve simply become used to being in a chronic state of sleep deprivation. The side effects of chronic sleep loss are not as noticeable as when you go through a whole night tossing and turning. The same holds true for long sleepers.
But there are a couple of exceptions.
Young adults, for example, may need more sleep than other adults — up to 9 hours per day is normal for people between 18 and 25 years of age. Your body can seem to crave more sleep when you’re ill. But if you habitually sleep longer than 9 hours a day, it could indicate an underlying condition.
Another exception is being a natural short sleeper. Researchers at UC San Francisco discovered short sleep genes over a decade. Specifically, they discovered a rare mutation in a gene called DEC2 in people who needed only 6.25 hours of sleep per night to function normally. Later studies carried out by the same team discovered other genes involved in what seems to be a natural propensity to sleep less and stay healthy.
However, a very small number of people have these kinds of mutations — around 4 in 100,000 people.
Around 1 in 3 adults are not getting enough sleep, according to the CDC. If you’re one of this sleepy bunch, there are ways to bring yourself back on a regular sleep schedule.
If you’re a shift worker, avoid rotating shifts if possible since it takes time for one’s body clock to adjust to sleep patterns. Maintaining a sleep schedule can help minimize sleep problems associated with night work.
And if you’re having trouble getting enough sleep due to insomnia, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, and other sleep problems, you should seek professional health if your problems are particularly severe. For mild cases of snoring, we suggest trying our Good Morning Snore Solution mouthpieces. These are tongue-stabilizing devices that are proven to improve sleep quality and duration in habitual snorers.
October 18, 2021 5 min read
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