When I was a child and attended day-care, I refused to go to sleep in the afternoon, although the educators kept saying it was good for me. Somehow, I knew, even then, that my body would tell me if it needed sleep. Tens of years later, I discovered why I felt that way.
Sleep is crucial for our health and well-being. A good rest will help us feel energetic, active, motivated and happy. But one question troubles humanity in modern times: how much sleep do we need to function correctly? An entire army of scientists strove to find the right answer.
It’s all genetics
In the end, scientists concluded that the key lies in our genes. That’s why nobody needs the exact amount of sleep as the next person. Some get by with four-five hours of sleep every night. Others need at least eight hours, and there are also those who can’t manage without a power nap in the afternoon.
I visited this site and read several articles on this topic. I understood why sleeping in the afternoon seemed so unnecessary for me. I was okay with less than eight hours of sleep per night, and I still am. I never sleep during the day! But I have other ways to relax my body and my mind: painting, playing guitar, or gardening.
Not everyone feels the same, though. The truth is that sleep needs vary across ages and personality types and they are strongly influenced by lifestyle. Under these circumstances, how can you determine the amount of sleep you need? A world-class study released by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) comes to our help.
The sleep chart
The expert panel formed by the NSF agreed that no research could, in fact, pinpoint the exact amount of sleep people of different ages need. Still, they were able to indicate the minimum and maximum ranges for age categories, starting with newborns and ending with 65+ adults. These are their recommendations:
- Newborns: 14 – 17 hours
- Infants: 12 – 15 hours
- Toddlers: 11 – 14 hours
- Preschoolers: 10 – 13 hours
- School-age children: 9 – 11 hours
- Teenagers: 8 – 10 hours
- Young adults: 7 – 9 hours
- Adults: 7 – 9 hours
- Older adults: 7 – 8 hours
If you don’t fit into this chart, no worries, I don’t either. I’m an adult now, and I’ve had plenty of stressful times in my life, hard-working months, even years and, at some point, a poor quality of sleep. Still, six hours will do the trick for me. Sometimes, I do sleep late, but if I wake up after nine hours of rest, I feel more tired than I was when I went to bed.
Tricks and tips
Science has already established that the quantity of sleep each of us needs depends on several things: genetic makeup, lifestyle, environmental factors, but also sleep quality. The last one is more important than you may think: if your sleep quality is poor, you’ll always feel tired, which will affect your daily behavior, your work performance, your relationships. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to overcome or prevent such a situation:
- Put yourself to sleep at the same hour every evening; it will help regulate your inner clock.
- Create a soothing bedtime routine: listen to calming music or do some light reading.
- Set a comfortable environment: a quiet room, the right temperature, a supportive mattress (maybe with a smart app to monitor your sleep), and no electronics around.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine: they all lead to poor sleeping.
- Reduce the use of gadgets: smartphones, laptops, and other electronics have been associated with lousy sleeping, mainly because of the exposure to the “blue light” they cast.
- Exercise or meditate: getting exercise during the day may help you get a better sleep at night. Meditation is a great ally as well.
And if you still find it difficult to fall asleep, think of what William Shakespeare once wrote: “We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” He’s telling us that the true meaning of existence is not found in our wakeful hours, but rather in our sleep, for that’s the time when dreams come alive and bring sense into our lives.