Sometimes it feels like there just aren’t enough hours in the day, and bedtime starts to creep a little later as we struggle to keep up with busy lives. Far from slacking off however, during sleep, the body repairs itself so the next morning our bodies are renewed and refreshed. Tossing and turning all night can have many unwanted side effects, from duller skin and weight gain, to depression and serious illness.
The National Sleep Foundation set out guidelines after a comprehensive two year study, for the amount of sleep recommended for the average person based on their age group. These guidelines do not pinpoint the exact amount of sleep required for an individual but rather act as a good ‘rule of thumb’ approach.
Newborns less than two months old sleep between 12 and 18 hours each day.
Infants (between 3 and 11 months old) sleep between 14 and 15 hours each day.
Toddlers (between 1 and 3 years old) sleep between 12 and 14 hours each day.
Children between 3 and 5 years old sleep between 11 and 13 hours each day.
School-aged children (5 to 10 years old) need 10 to 11 hours of sleep each day.
Teens (11 to 17 years old) need 8.5 to 9.5 hours each day to feel their best.
Young Adults (18 to 25 years old) need 7 to 9 hours each day to feel their best.
Adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each day to feel their best.
Older Adults (65 years and older) need 7 to 8 hours each day to feel their best.
Effects of Sleep Deprivation
The effects of exhaustion are manifold, we all know the feeling of grogginess that accompanies a sleepless night, but did you know that the ill effects can go much further?
Sleeplessness is cited as a major factor in accidents, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year. Drowsiness can slow our reactions times considerably and puts us at higher risk of accident or injury whether on the road or in work.
A lack of sleep will not only slow down your attention, alertness and problem solving capacity but it can interrupt your brains ‘memory making’ functions that are carried out during certain sleep cycles.
Insomnia and depression often go hand-in-hand. Although just 15% of people with depression sleep too much, as many as 80% have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Patients with persistent insomnia are more than three times more likely to develop depression.
They call it beauty sleep for a reason! A lack of sleep can do more than just cause temporary puffiness and dark circles around the eyes. As we sleep we release growth hormone which patches up the damage of the day before. Also a lack of sleep leads to higher production of the stress hormone cortisol which in high amounts breaks down collagen, a protein that keeps your skin supple.
There is an unexpected truth in the phrase ‘you snooze you lose’. A 2004 study showed people who sleep less than six hours a day were almost 30 percent more likely to become obese than those who slept seven to nine hours. Sleep loss has been linked to an increase in appetite and cravings for high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods.
Get a better nights sleep:
Limit the amount of coffee and tea you drink in the evening, also avoid cigarettes and alcohol. Avoid snacking late at night also as this can affect your quality of sleep.
Establish a bed time routine. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day to help your body establish a rhythm. Cut out naps, if you have trouble falling asleep at night.
Wind down before bed, listen to some calming music, do some gentle yoga, have a bath.
Only use the bed for sleeping, avoid using your phone or tablet, the light from the screen can interrupt melatonin production and make it more difficult to nod off.
Don’t lie in bed if you’re finding it hard to sleep. Get up and make a hot cup of cocoa or milk and try some light reading until you feel drowsy.
Turn the lights off, draw the curtains! Try and get your room as dark as possible, artificial light disturbs out natural sleeping patterns.
Make sure your bed is comfortable, but has a firm mattress that will support your back while you sleep.
Stay cool. Use extra blankets in winter but avoid having the heating on, keep your room well aired.
We all have periodic bouts of sleeplessness particularly around times of high stress. However, if you have prolonged trouble falling asleep it would be wise to consult a doctor to investigate treatment options.