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Sleep 101: How Much You Need, and How To Get It

By Crystal Shepherd

We can all agree that sleep is a non-negotiable, an essential aspect to our health. In fact, research shows that your quality of sleep affects your energy level, appetite control, and can help to boost your immune system. According to PubMed, regulated sleep also helps regulate your emotions.

So, the question we need to ask ourselves is not if we should prioritize proper sleep, but how we can get the most out of our sleep. However, the amount of recommended sleep for an adult varies depending on the person. To start understanding how much sleep you personally need, try asking yourself the following questions:

  • Are you productive and happy after 7 hours of sleep? What about 9 hours?
  • Do you have any chronic or underlying health issues? Are you at risk for any diseases?
  • Do you depend on caffeine to get you through the day?
  • Do you feel sleepy while driving?
  • Are you currently experiencing sleep problems?
  • How often do you get a good night’s sleep?

It’s important to first answer these questions, to assess your current sleep routine and its effects on your body, in order to know how much sleep you should be getting. This is because the optimal range varies vastly: most adults need 7 — 9 hours daily. That’s a big window, and some people might find that they need even more than this. Additionally, there might be other health issues at play, such as insomnia. It’s important to note that you should speak with your primary care physician or a sleep professional if you suspect that another health issue is influencing your quality of sleep.

Evaluate your current sleep habits by tracking how your body responds to a varied amount of sleep. Try getting seven hours one night and then shoot for nine the next and notice if you feel different the day after. Pay attention to essential signs, like your emotions and energy after each sleep, and adjust accordingly. This will help clue you in to just how much sleep is right for your body and your life’s demands.

Once you’ve determined how much sleep you should get, the next question is how to achieve the best quality rest you can. The following are some strategies that can help you have regular, restful sleeps.

Stick to a sleep schedule (even on the weekends). Having the same consistent schedule will help your body feel more rested. It also helps manage other health aspects such as your hunger, as you’re more likely to eat on a regular schedule.

Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. This will hint to your body that it is time to slow down and catch those important zzz’s.

Exercise daily. You will feel more relaxed and less jittery. You will want to sleep more when your body has moved a little bit every day.

Evaluate your sleep space. Make sure your bedroom, or wherever you sleep, promotes healthy sleep habits. Your bed and pillows should be comfortable, but your room itself should also be comfortable. Make sure it’s ambiance is one that works for you: proper lighting, temperature and sound.

Be aware of foods and drinks that “steal” sleep. Alcohol and caffeine can inhibit your body’s ability to sleep, stealing many of your restful hours.

Turn off electronics and other physical distractions before bed. It’s so easy to bring your phone, kindle, or your audiobook to bed with you. While these items are not bad in nature, they can actually cause your brain to wake up and make it difficult to sleep. Not only does blue light affect your circadian rhythm, but you might get distracted by an interesting novel or news article, and end up staying up later than you had planned.

We encourage you to start a sleep journal in order to better understand your sleep habits and its influences on your life. The most important aspect to keep in mind when working to better your sleep is to make it a priority. Sleep is essential to your health, and it is therefore just as important to prioritize as exercise and proper diet.


April 3, 2020

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