How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?

Sleep needs vary across ages and are easily impacted by your health and lifestyle.

Sleep needs vary across ages and are easily impacted by your health and lifestyle.

Sleep needs vary across ages and are easily impacted by your health and lifestyle. To determine how much sleep you need, it’s important to examine your sleep habits and how you’re feeling. A recent paper published by the National Sleep Foundation suggests that although there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to how much sleep adults need, there are ways to tell if you are not getting sufficient sleep, such as the need for an alarm clock.

Whether you need seven, eight, or even nine hours of sleep a night may be up for debate, but the importance of getting adequate sleep is irrefutable. Sleep loss increases your risk of high blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, and diseases associated with these risk factors, such as diabetes and heart disease. Sleep loss also impairs performance and mood, according to the report.

So how can you determine how much sleep you need? Here are some tips to see if your sleep is on the right track, or if a change is needed.

  • How long does it take you to fall asleep?
    A normal sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep) is usually between 15-20 minutes. If you crash as soon as your head hits the pillow, you might not be sleeping enough. But if you lie there staring at the ceiling and it takes you an hour or more to fall asleep, you might be trying to sleep too much.
  • Do you wake up during the night?
    There are many serious sleep conditions that can disrupt sleep. If you wake up multiple times throughout the night or have difficulty falling back asleep, talk to your doctor. You may be suffering from primary or secondary insomnia. Primary insomnia means your sleep issues are not directly associated with any other health concern. Secondary insomnia is caused by something else such as a health condition, pain or a medication.
  • Do you frequently wake up with or before your alarm?
    If you need an alarm to drag you out of bed each morning, chances are good that you’re not getting enough sleep. However, if you find yourself often waking up before your alarm, even if you go back to sleep, it might be your brain’s way of telling you that your body has gotten enough sleep. Try starting your day when you first wake up instead of continuing to snooze.
  • How do you feel during the day?
    Are you tired? Try to separate periodic feelings of fatigue or low body energy (which are normal throughout the day) from how likely are you to fall asleep sitting and reading or working after lunch. If you feel driven to sleep, you might need more sleep. If not, your sleep is likely just fine, even if you are only getting six or seven hours.

There is no magic sleep number. We’ve all heard the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep for adults. But that is merely a recommendation. Listen to your body and observe your lifestyle habits. If you’re walking around like a zombie, try getting more sleep. If you’re waking up on your own before the sun rises, get up and seize the day!

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