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How Much Sleep Do You <i>Really</i> Need?

Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors

How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?

Wake up to new research on peaceful slumbering.
Susan Smith Jones Ph.D.
Susan Smith Jones Ph.D. More by this author
Mar 26, 2010 at 10:00 AM

Over the past 40 years, Americans have cut their snooze time by one to two hours per night. We now sleep less than people in any other industrialized country. Chronic sleeping problems afflict as many as 70 million Americans, costing the nation billions in medical expenses, accidents, and lost productivity, according to a new study. Last year, doctors wrote a record 43 million prescriptions for sleep pills. What’s going on? How does this deprivation affect our bodies?

There’s nothing more physically restorative than good sleep, and plenty of it, night after night after night. Lack in this area affects everything—job performance, schoolwork, health, and family harmony. Women, especially mothers, are the most deprived, losing about nine hours of sleep each week. Sleep debt impacts relationships, too. According to a very recent National Sleep Foundation poll, 25 percent of couples say they’re too tired for sex. And it’s been shown that if you only get six hours of sleep nightly, your mental functioning will be on about the same level as that of a drunk driver!

Lack of sleep also undermines your body’s ability to deal with stress. One way to tell if you’re getting enough shut-eye is to see if you wake at a regular time without an alarm. If you require a buzzer to get out of bed in the morning, you’re not getting enough sleep. How much sleep do you need each day? Adults need 8 1/4 hours of sleep nightly to maximize their ability to function daily. Adolescents require 9 1/4 hours; preschoolers have to get 12 hours; toddlers need 13 hours and babies need 14-18 hours.

Consistent lack of sleep can lead to a variety of health problems, including toxic buildup, premature aging, weight gain, depression, irritability, impatience, low sex drive memory loss, lethargy, relationship problems, and accidents. Sleepy people are dangerous to themselves and others. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that sleep deprivation plays a role in nearly 100,000 traffic accidents each year; it also has been cited as a leading cause of workplace mishaps and has contributed to such disasters as the Chernobyl nuclear-reactor meltdown and the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

How do you know if you’re sleep deprived? If you become sluggish, drowsy, or fatigued, particularly after lunch or in the middle of the afternoon, you fall into this category. If you have difficulty getting up in the morning, you’re also in this group. When it comes to sleep, researchers and other experts say that most people require a minimum of eight hours nightly. Every hour you lose adds to your sleep indebtedness, and you can’t expect to catch up by sleeping late one day a week.

There’s nothing more restorative for the body than plenty of good sleep on a regular basis. So if you want to be the best you can be, make this a nonnegotiable habit because it will have a positive impact on every area—body, mind, emotions, and spirit. With enough shut-eye, you’ll heal your physical self, feel more empowered, have more confidence, and know that you can face whatever comes each day with aplomb and élan. If everyone got more sleep and felt more rested, we’d be kinder toward one another; and family, friend, and business relationships would run more smoothly. Sweet, delicious sleep is a wonderful gift to give to yourself—and to others!

Sweet Dreams!

Here are some tips on getting a good night’s sleep:

  1. Increase your evening body heat with exercise or a hot bath, then allow at least two hours for a drop back to a normal temperature before going to bed.
  2. Save your bed for sleep and sex only. Work, eat, and watch TV somewhere else. Choose calming and soothing materials for bedtime reading.
  3. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and well-ventilated with plenty of fresh air. Add green plants to your décor to help supply oxygen.
  4. Don’t eat too close to bedtime and choose your evening meal wisely. A big, spicy meal might interfere with sleep; healthy carbohydrates make a better choice.
About Author
Susan Smith Jones Ph.D.
Susan Smith Jones, Ph.D., has authored a variety of audio programs, 20 books, and hundreds of magazine articles. For 30 years, at UCLA, she taught students, staff, and faculty how to be healthy and fit; and is internationally renowned as a holistic h Continue reading