Sleep – How Much is Enough? by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC
Burning the candle at both ends is a common trait among the very ambitious. However, while we may feel as if we can get more done if we simply stay awake for a few more hours each day, we may actually be sacrificing productivity when we sacrifice sleep. It is important to find out the right amount of sleep for your body, so that you can be as productive as possible, without damaging your body and mind.
The average person needs seven to nine hours of sleep per night. This range varies by person, including some people who function best on six hours of sleep and others who really need ten. What is just as critical as the number of hours spent sleeping is the stage of sleep. Those who get very little deep REM sleep (the most restful kind) may still feel tired after 10 hours, while another person who gets seven good hours of REM sleep feels very refreshed.
Sleep needs vary by age and phase of life, as well. We all know, for example, that children need more sleep during growth periods. Adults need varying degrees of sleep at various life stages, but it is often because their sleep becomes less restful. For example, as a person’s health declines, they may find themselves waking more frequently during the night, causing them to need more sleep overall.
Determine Your Personal Needs
Determining your personal sleep needs can be fairly simple, but does take some attention. It’s a good idea to keep a sleep diary for a few weeks, to help you determine patterns. In this diary, record the following:
• your waking time
• the time you go to bed
• approximately how long it takes you to get to sleep
• how many times you awaken during the night
• how tired you feel during the day, and
• when you feel ready for bed at night
After a couple of weeks, a pattern should emerge. You should be able to see a correlation between the amount of sleep you get, when you get it, and how you feel the day after. This information will help you to determine when you should go to bed and wake up each day. Another simple trick is to pay attention to whether you begin to awaken naturally just a few minutes before your alarm sounds. If you are still sleeping soundly every morning when the alarm sounds, you are not getting enough sleep. If you begin to rouse on your own just a few minutes prior, your body is on a good schedule.
Lack of sleep leads to mistakes at work and forgetfulness. It can also cause mood swings and depression. Over time, it wears on your health, as well. It is important to determine the perfect amount of sleep for your body and strive to reach this level regularly.