How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?
Sleep needs vary across ages and are especially impacted by lifestyle and health. Thus, to determine how much sleep you need, it’s important to assess not only where you fall on the “sleep needs spectrum,” but also to examine what lifestyle factors are affecting the quality and quantity of your sleep such as work schedules and stress. To get the sleep you need, you must look at the big picture.
Though research cannot pinpoint an exact amount of sleep need by people at different ages. Nevertheless, it’s important to pay attention to your own individual needs by assessing how you feel on different amounts of sleep. Are you productive, healthy and happy on seven hours of sleep? Or does it take you nine hours of quality ZZZs to get you into high gear? Do you have health issues such as being overweight? Are you at risk for any disease? Are you experiencing sleep problems? Do you depend on caffeine to get you through the day? Do you feel sleepy when driving? These are questions that must be asked before you can find the number that works for you.
Exercise and Sleep
Exercise of any sort has generally been shown to improve daytime sleepiness. This is true for just about every population that has been studied, from healthy teens who took up running to inactive people who began Pilates. In understanding how exercise can result in such a positive effect on sleepiness, it’s helpful to take a look at the most common causes of sleepiness.
Among the most frequent causes of sleepiness and fatigue in the population are depression, obesity, diabetes, smoking, and inadequate sleep at night . Exercise helps with the first three of these. For example, physical activity has been shown to help depression in some studies. Physical activity is also an important part of most effective weight loss programs. Working out may also help with glucose control in diabetes. So part of the beneficial effect of exercise on sleepiness may result from its positive effects on some of the common causes of sleepiness.
We probably don’t know the whole story yet, but what we do know is compelling: exercise can help with excessive sleepiness
What You Can Do To Improve Your Sleep
To begin a new path towards healthier sleep and a healthier lifestyle, begin by assessing your own individual needs and habits. See how you respond to different amounts of sleep. Pay careful attention to your mood, energy and health after a poor night’s sleep versus a good one. Ask yourself, “How often do I get a good night’s sleep?” If the answer is “not often”, then you may need to consider changing your sleep habits or consulting a physician or sleep specialist.
Use the National Sleep Foundation Sleepiness Test to see if you are more or less sleepy than the general population. Similar tests are often used by doctors to test sleepiness levels. If you rate “very sleepy” on this test, you should speak to your physician. Click to take the sleepiness-test.
Most importantly, make sleep a priority. You must schedule sleep like any other daily activity, so put it on your “to-do list” and cross it off every night. But don’t make it the thing you do only after everything else is done – stop doing other things so you get the sleep you need.
Courtesy of the National Sleep Foundation