In 2015, the National Sleep Foundation (NSP) issued revised sleep recommendations based on "a rigorous, systematic review of the world scientific literature relating sleep duration to health, performance and safety." Turns out, it's not as clear cut as the suggested eight hours of sleep we're accustomed to hearing. The recommended amount of sleep we get changes throughout our lives. And although our sleep number fluctuates, one thing that's consistent is the fact that far too many people fail to get enough sleep.
How Much Sleep Do I Need?
How much sleep do kids, teens, and adults need? Here are the NSP's recommended sleep ranges:
- Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours
- Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
- Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
- Preschoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours
- School age children (6-13): 9-11 hours
- Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours
- Younger adults (18-25): 7-9 hours
- Adults (26-64): 7-9 hours
- Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours
If you're reading this, surely you're no longer in the 11-17-hour range but just as likely, you're still not getting an optimal amount of sleep. And you're not alone. One in three adults don't sleep enough on a regular basis, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you're that person, read on to learn about the benefits of sleep, how lack of sleep can affect you, and how to get more precious Zs.
Benefits of Sleep
Sleep affects nearly every aspect of our lives. It impacts our sports performance, mental function, emotional well-being, eating habits, and physical health, development, and healing. Studies (like this one, this one, and this one) are among the countless research that illustrates the myriad benefits of proper sleep, including:
- Improved athletic performance
- Enhanced immune function
- Reduced inflammation throughout the body
- Improved healing and repair of muscle tissue and blood vessels
- Better cognitive function, concentration, memory, and productivity
- Decreased unhealthy cravings/overeating
- Stress reduction
- Lowered risk of depression
- Younger appearance
It's hard to argue against the benefits of sleep easily one of the most important "prescriptions" for overall physical, mental, and emotional health. And unlike many traditional and alternative medicines and therapies on the market, sleep is available to everyone and absolutely free!
Lack of Recommended Sleep
What happens when you don't get the recommended amount of sleep? Just a few sleep-deprived nights can have an impact. The National Institutes of Health, stated, "After several nights of losing sleep even a loss of just 1-2 hours per night your ability to function suffers as if you haven't slept at all for a day or two."
"The damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant (such as a car crash), or it can harm you over time," continues the report. "For example, ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others."
Specific risks of poor sleep can include:
- Sub-par athletic performance
- Lowered productivity at work and school
- Slowed reaction time and increased likelihood of making mistakes
- Weight gain
- Difficulty in social interactions
- Memory loss
- Depleted sex drive
- Increased inflammation
- Higher risk of heart disease and stroke
- Impact on blood sugar and increased risk of diabetes
Beyond just the personal impact, our collective poor sleep habits can be considered a public health problem, leading to increased rick of automobile accidents, as well as aviation, shipping, industrial, and other large-scale disasters.
How To Get More Sleep
At this point, you're probably sufficiently scared and freshly committed to getting more sleep. But it can be tough to steer clear of stress when trying to get better rest. The last thing you want is to lie in bed, endlessly counting sheep and cursing your inability to doze off!
How do you go about blocking off enough time, winding down properly, and preparing for the best possible odds to experience the benefits of sleep? We've actually written two entire posts on the topic, with a variety of advice and tools:
Armed with these tips and a little patience and practice you'll be well on your way to sleeping better. Here's to your improved, sleep-enhanced health and sweet dreams!
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