How much sleep do we actually need?
Although we’ve probably been told countless times how much sleep we need for our current stage in life, it’s important to keep these numbers handy not only for ourselves, but for loved ones and family members as well.
The amount of sleep we actually need is not only determined by our age group, but also our lifestyle and health.
Things that impact our sleep like caffeine, electronic devices, diet and exercise are important factors in determining your individual sleep needs. Sleep Debt is a shortage of sleep caused over time (as little as a few nights of two to three hours too little sleep will put you in “debt”).
When you skimp on sleep, your body reacts in a number of ways. One of the most impactful reactions is the buildup of adenosine in your bloodstream. This chemical breaks down when you sleep so without enough, adenosine builds up, making you more and more desperate for shut-eye. Your reaction time slows and you can become more prone to accidents and mistakes while driving, for instance.
Americans routinely skip hours of sleep at night. Add up that sleep debt and it’s like pulling an all-nighter. Then consider this: Staying up for 24 hours straight and then getting behind the wheel is like driving with a blood-alcohol content that would deem you legally drunk in all 50 states.
So how do you pay off the debt? Sleeping in on the weekends may seem like a great way to make up for weekday shortages, but it’s not really the best strategy. Excessive oversleeping can be just as damaging by throwing off your sleep schedule even more, making Sunday night a tough one.
Start by changing your sleep habits with good sleep hygiene. Going to bed just 15 minutes earlier each night can help. Exercise daily, try a bath with Epsom salts (magnesium is a great supplement for restorative sleep) and even a daytime nap can help you catch up.