We all have days when we feel like we didn't get enough sleep the night before, but how much sleep do we really need? There are many factors that are involved in determining how much sleep an individual needs. Sleep requirements vary and can be impacted by age, lifestyle, and health.
The Sleep Foundation explains you need to find out where you fall on the "sleep needs spectrum" in order to determine how much sleep you need. Taking a look at all the lifestyle factors that might affect your sleep patterns is also important. Do you work days, nights, or a swing shift? Are you under a lot of stress? Are there regular interruptions in your sleep caused by environmental noises, such as sirens, trains, barking dogs, or a new baby? Any one of these things can affect the quality and quantity of your sleep.
There have been numerous research studies over the years and one thing they all share in common is the inability to determine exactly how much sleep people need at certain ages. If you get eight hours of sleep each night, are you feeling good and ready to face the day when you get up? If your productivity is good and you go through the day without getting drowsy you are probably getting enough sleep for your needs, whether it is seven hours or nine hours. If you are experiencing sleep issues, keep a journal for two weeks and include how you feel during the day. One thing is certain, if you are not functioning well on the amount of sleep you normally have it's important to find out why. Ask yourself these questions:
- Are you on prescribed medications for a chronic condition?
- Are you overweight?
- Are you high risk for a disease?
- Is caffeine the friend that keeps you awake?
- Does driving make you drowsy?
If these are issues you deal with on a regular basis. Make an appointment to see your doctor, and bring your sleep journal with you. Your doctor may determine to refer you to a sleep specialist.
Researchers have determined that there is no "magic number" when it comes to the number of hours people need to sleep. There are different needs among age groups, but these needs can also vary with the individual person. You may have a genetic disposition to a certain sleep duration, and yours may differ from another person of the same age. The important factor is how you function on the amount of sleep you get on a regular basis.
A study conducted in 2005 confirmed what researchers believed about the variations of sleep patterns that exist across large populations. The study suggests researchers look for identifying traits in genetic patterns that might explain the varying sleep patterns of individuals.
If you are looking for your magic number, keep a journal and observe your sleeping patterns. If you are not getting enough sleep, make an appointment to see your doctor and rule out any undiagnosed health problems.