How Much Sleep Do You Need?

You might be asking yourself, how much sleep do I need? Sleep is the most important behavior that humans exhibit. Did you know that we spend almost 1/3 of our lifetime sleeping? Basically, an adult needs at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night.

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And though it might sound like too much time wasted, time spent on sleep is used to replenish our body's energy. Our body needs enough sleep to function efficiently and productively as it plays a critical role in our health and well-being.

There have been several theories developed by a lot of scientists on why do we sleep and how long can you go without sleep.

  • First is the Inactivity Theory. This theory suggests that animals that stay still during specific periods have an advantage over those that stay awake. They tend to be safer from predators and danger, for example. This behavior, as time goes by has been recognized as sleep.
  • The second one would be the Energy Conservation Theory. This suggests that sleep's main function is to reduce our activities when we are awake. Doing this may lessen our body's demand for food and energy since there are less activities involved.
  • The third theory which is called Restorative Theory explains that our bodies need sleep so that we can recover from the energy lost in our body when we were awake. Our sleeping hours create an opportunity for our body to regenerate and repair what was lost, such as cognitive function and tissue repair among others.
  • Brain Plasticity Theory is the last theory that suggests that sleep is an essential factor for brain development specially for infants and young children.

And though Science may wrestle with such theories, what remains a fact is that we need sleep. Not only sleep, but enough sleep. But what happens when we're asleep and how much sleep should I get?

During our sleep, scientists found out that a clean-up in our system happens. Our glymphatic system or the mechanism that collects adenosine build up, is much more active when we are sleeping.

During the clean-up, our glymphatic system flushes away our toxic bi-products. These bi-products are the wastes that we have in our body, once cleaned up, we take time to generate new and clean tissues and energy that we can use again when we're awake.

So, what happens to people that are not getting enough sleep? Those that are getting less than the suggested hours of sleep are more likely to suffer from sleep deprivation.

In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report stating that more than a third of US adults, this equals to around 83 million people aged 18 years old and above, are sleep deprived.

These people are more prone to heart and mental disease, obesity, diabetes. Studies also prove to affect a person's cognitive function and concentration, immunity and mood. There have been several experiments of how many hours of sleep we need.

One experiment tested 4, 6, and 8 hours of sleep per person over a period of time. Those with 8 hours of sleep showed lesser attention laps, while those with 4-6 hours of sleep showed a decline. In both groups, they exhibited a decline on their everyday mental function.

To avoid these negative effects that can be brought about by sleep deprivation, make sure to get enough sleep. The price of not having enough sleep could be your health.

Getting the right amount of sleep improves your hormones, when you sleep enough your stress hormones tend to lessen. Better sleep also improves insulin sensitivity and testosterone levels.

Another benefit of having a good sleep is fighting off being sick. Also, it has been proven to lessen the risk of depression. Around 90% of those that suffer from depression are also suffering from sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that causes breathing pauses or difficulty.

Additionally, sleeping will help you learn better, sleep deprivation impairs our ability to learn. There are a lot of negative effects of not getting enough sleep. Did you know that in 1965 a 17-year-old high school student Randy Gardner holds the longest record of staying awake?

He stayed awake for 264 hours or 11 days. Day by day, there have been effects like losing his eye focus, losing the ability to identify object by touch and moodiness. At the end of the experiment he struggled with short term memory, concentration and was having hallucinations.

Though these effects might vary per person, some would even lead to death. An example would be a US soccer fan in the US who died after staying awake for 48 hours in 2014 to watch the world cup. To avoid these effects, here are the tips on how to get a better sleep at night:

  • Have a high-quality mattress that's comfortable enough for sleeping. Comfort equals quality sleep.
  • Make sure that the room is dark or black out. Our sleep hormones, called melatonin tends to increase when there's no presence of light. Sometimes these hormones are confused by unnatural light sources signaling that it's still day time.
  • Have a sleep routine or plan. Our body remembers our body clock thus, creating a routine will help us fall asleep faster on the time that we usually tend to fall asleep.
  • Try to read something before sleeping. Reading will help you relax and can help you sleep faster.
  • Taking a bath 1-2 hours before bedtime improves relaxation as it increases your core body temperature and makes you feel sleepy.
  • Avoid work out or exercise 4-6 hours before bedtime. This activity releases cortisol that contributes to the feeling of wakefulness.
  • Try to meditate can also improve sleep. Studies have shown that those that meditate tend to have a good sleep quality.

Final Words

If you’re wondering how many hours of sleep do I need, well you should understand that the suggested sleeping hours might not be true to other people since there's no one size fits all measurement, but...

It is important to make sure that our day to day activities are not affected by our lack of sleep. Remember that we can't buy a good night sleep anywhere, so make sure to get enough of it.