Sleep studies are typically concerned with identifying sleep deprivation. However, getting too much sleep can also affect your health.
7 Hours is an optimal amount of sleep
Healthy adults are advised to sleep seven to nine hours a night. While it shouldn’t be surprising to know that we are sleeping less than ever today, a recent Wall Street Journal article reported that experts have agreed on seven hours as the optimal amount of sleep.
Could it be that we are settling for seven hours now that eight seems less attainable? Maybe, but other studies have found that individuals who regularly get seven hours of sleep a night have the lowest mortality and morbidity rates in comparison to other sleep schedules.
Too little sleep
Inadequate sleep affects your memory, energy, attention, and productivity levels both in the long-run and the very next day. This can happen even if you get just 20 minutes less sleep than you should be getting!
Your sleep patterns change as you age, but many seniors don’t get as much sleep as they should. While children and teens normally need closer to 10 hours of sleep, seniors require the same amount of sleep as younger adults in their 30s and 40s.
Too much sleep
On the other hand, getting too much sleep is associated with obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Sleep is difficult to measure since sleep patterns can differ depending on factors like an illness that causes individuals to sleep more. It is also difficult to self-report your hours or even assess what would be your ideal sleeping pattern. Another mistake is that individuals often misjudge the time it takes to fall asleep, or how often we wake up during the night.
Here are a few tips for anyone who has trouble falling asleep:
- Turn off electronics at least 1hr before going to bed – avoid using your iPhone as an alarm clock, scrolling through Facebook, or watching TV right before going to bed
- Have a bedtime -a consistent bedtime routine will help your body fall asleep
- Exercise – regular exercise at least three hours before bedtime will help you sleep through the night
- Expose yourself to sunlight (but not too much!) – getting outdoors with plenty of sunscreen and a hat will help regulate your melatonin (the hormone that helps you sleep) and sleep-wake cycles. Even just opening curtains during the day will help your body when you fall asleep at night.
- Take short naps – nap early in the afternoon rather than closer to the time you will be trying to fall asleep; the ideal nap length is anywhere from 15 – 45 minutes because it is a great way to restore your energy without making you feel groggy and more tired after a longer rest.
How can I find my optimal amount of sleep?
Although experts recommend 7 hours as a standard for optimal sleep, sleep schedules should be customized based on your individual needs. Vacation is a great time to determine your optimal level of sleep.
The next time you are on vacation, go to sleep when you feel tired and don’t set an alarm clock. Try to avoid excess alcohol or caffeine and stop using electronics an hour before going to bed. See how you feel the next day.
Practice a routine, evaluate your sleep, and improve your health so that you can be your most active, energized, an alert self everyday.