Quality sleep is essential for both the body and the mind to properly function. Our sleeping patterns dictate how we feel during the day, how much energy we have, our moods, and how well we concentrate. Poor quality sleep can negatively impact both our personal and professional lives. Whereas following guidelines that recommend adults have between 7 to 9 hours of rest every night can improve quality of life and productivity.
Why Regular Sleeping Patterns Are Important
The circadian rhythm sets our sleep-wake cycle, letting the body know when to perform its daily functions. Often referred to as the body’s internal clock, the circadian rhythm is even connected to daily patterns in brain activity, body temperature, hormone production, and cell regeneration. Irregular sleeping patterns can upset this rhythm and disrupt the many processes it helps control. Continued sleeping issues and disruptions to the rhythm may result in a weakened immune system, poor appetite control and weight issues.
While we are asleep it is time for the body to repair itself from the rigors of the previous day. Muscles are repaired and rebuilt ready for exertions to come. We awake feeling refreshed, with all those little aches and pains from the previous day gone.
The brain also benefits from a quality night’s rest. While you are asleep the toxins that have built up in the brain during the day are cleared out. Poor sleeping habits are seen as a possible link to Alzheimer’s due to these toxins not being properly removed from the brain. While we are asleep the brain also processes memories, helping to keep them intact.
Sleeping the recommended hours each day is also important for the mental and emotional health. Studies indicate that those who do not spend the recommended hours asleep each night can see their emotional response to negative situations increase by up to 60%.
People who struggle with their sleeping are also at an increased risk from health issues such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity. The fatigue associated with poor sleeping can also lead to an increased risk from traffic accidents.
What Is Quality Sleep?
Although 7 to 9 hours a night are recommended, this can vary between age groups, as well as being affected by medical conditions. The following are guidelines for the age groups:
- Adults 65 year and above 7-8 hours
- Adults 18 to 64 years 7-9 hours
- Teenagers 14 to 17 years 8-10 hours
- School age 6 to 13 years 9 to 11 hours
- Preschool 3 to 5 years 10 to 13 hours
- Toddlers 1 to 2 years 11 to 14 hours
- Infants 4 to 12 months 12 to 15 hours
- Newborns 0 to 3 months 14 to 17 hours
It is important to remember these are guidelines. Everyone is different, with different lifestyles and different requirements. These guidelines should be used alongside knowledge of health and daily activity levels to better understand how many hours of sleep is needed every night to fully recharge both body and mind.
Genetics can also play a role, with some people being more genetically predisposed to needing only 6 to 7 hours of rest every night. At the other end of the scale some people may suffer even more than the average person without the required amount of rest each night due to genetics. Either way, people can not alter their genetic make-up and will also need to listen to their bodies and come to know how many hours they need to be asleep each night to feel at their best the following day.
Barriers to Quality Sleep
Busy lifestyles are a common factor of reduced hours of sleep, especially for students and young adults, at the expense of health even productivity. Then older adults experience reduced sleep from hormonal changes, but maintaining a regular sleep-wake cycle can be beneficial.
For middle-age adult, establishing regular sleeping patterns can also be compromised by a disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea. Caused by repeated collapse of the upper airways resulting in frequent awakenings for breath, obstructive sleep apnea leads to sleep deprivation and excessive fatigue. This disorder also increases the risk of serious health issues such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. There are very treatment options for sleep apnea that can restore quality sleep.
Tips for Better Sleeping Patterns
Sleeping should be one of the day’s priorities alongside a nutritious diet and exercise for a healthier lifestyle. As good sleeping patterns benefit overall health there are a number of ways to try and optimize your sleeping environment and help stay asleep for the recommended hours each night. These include:
- Follow a regular night-time routine by going to bed at the same time and getting up in the morning at the same time each day.
- Have a relaxing bedtime routine to help you fall asleep, which could include listening to music before going to bed
- Create a comfortable sleeping environment with a comfortable mattress and room temperature, plus making sure the bedroom is quiet and suitably dark
- Try to cut out using screens such as televisions, laptops and phones for at least 30 minutes before bed time
- Develop an exercise routine during the day, but not too close to your bed time. Activity during the day can help encourage rest
- Caffeine, alcohol and nicotine can all have a negative impact on your sleeping patterns. Eliminating these substances in the hours before bed can have a positive impact on helping you fall and stay asleep
- For some people practicing meditation can have a calming influence and boost their likelihood of falling asleep
The quality of your rest is crucial, and optimizing your sleeping environment will help you receive the hours of uninterrupted rest you need. If you go to bed but struggle to fall asleep, or awake frequently through the night, you are not going to get the restorative rest you need, regardless of how many hours you have been in bed.
With a disorder like obstructive sleep apnea, whose symptoms include frequent awakening and loud snoring, sleeping will become fragmented and lead to excessive fatigue. Anyone who suspects they have this disorder should consult their physician at the earliest opportunity.
The guidelines on hours of sleeping required each night are a rule-of-thumb, to be used alongside personal circumstances to consider the amount of hours an individual needs. It is estimated that one third of adults are not sleeping enough. On average a healthy adult should be sleeping 7 to 9 hours each night, a crucial ingredient in maintaining good health.