With so many of us leading such busy and non-stop lives, getting the right amount of sleep can often take a backseat. But is getting the right amount of sleep really as important as some make it out to be? If it really is that important, what are the impacts on your health if you deprive yourself of sleep? And how much sleep do you really need? This article will seek to answer all of these questions and more.
The fact of the matter is that sleep is vitally important to leading a healthy lifestyle. Chronic sleep loss can be attributed to causing numerous health problems, such as weight gain, the diminishment of the immune system, high blood pressure, high levels of stress and can lead to irritability.
In addition to this, researchers in the Netherlands have recently found that the cardiovascular benefits of exercise, healthy diet, moderate alcohol consumption and non smoking are all amplified when coupled with a good night’s sleep.
Experts usually say that adults need around 7-9 hours of shuteye every night – with the optimum amount varying from person to person. Of course, some people will be able to fully function with less than 7 hours, whilst some people will need in excess of 9 hours every night – trial and error is the only real way to work out your own optimum period.
So now we know that getting enough sleep is important in order to live a healthy life. But how do you know if you really are getting enough? Well, according to psychologist and sleep expert David F. Dinges, irritability, moodiness and lack of inhibition are some of the primary signs that someone is not getting enough sleep. Worsened symptoms can include apathy, slowed speech, flattened emotional responses, impaired memory and an inability to multitask.
Another thing that is important to understand is that it is not just the quantity but the quality of the sleep you manage to get that it is important for your health. It has been scientifically proven that the most damaging effects of sleep deprivation occur when people don’t get enough deep sleep, as this is the period in which the body repairs itself and builds up and replenishes energy levels for the day ahead.
If you feel that you are giving yourself plenty of time to sleep but you are still finding it hard to wake up in the morning or if you are feeling particularly tired in the afternoon, it may be the case that you are not spending enough time in each of the different stages of sleep.
The different stages of REM sleep and Non REM sleep form a complete ‘sleep cycle’, which typically lasts around 90 minutes, with the cycle usually repeating 4-6 times over the course of a night.
One tip to streamline your waking up process is to try and engineer your sleep so that you wake up at the end of a sleep cycle. You can do this by taking the time you need to wake up in the morning and subtracting from it in 90 minute increments. For example, if you know that you need to be up at 7:30am, it would be best to fall asleep at 10:30pm or 12:00am, in order to maximise the possibility of waking up at the end of a sleep cycle, making you feel more refreshed.