When it comes to diets and fitness routines, there’s something different out there for everyone. But when it comes to sleep, the prescription for optimal shut-eye is much more close to a “one size fits all” method.
The Sleep Health Foundation recommends that adults aged between 18-65 need seven to nine hours of sleep per night to promote optimal health and well-being. Any less than seven hours could be associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental distress.
This means that, ideally, you spend roughly one-third of your life asleep!
So why is seven to nine hours the magic number for sleep? In 2003, David Dinges and Gregory Belenky, both sleep researchers in the U.S., performed studies to determine the consequences of sleep deprivation. Their goal was to figure out how little sleep a person could get away with having without it affecting their cognitive performance.
The studies found that when comparing cognitive performance between a night of eight hours of sleep to a night of six hours of sleep, after just 10 days, the participants that slept six hours each night were as cognitively impaired as participants who suffered from one night of total sleep deprivation.
Even worse, the participants who only got four hours of sleep per night over the course of the study reached that same level of impairment in only three days. By 10 days, they were as cognitively impaired as if they had gone two days with no sleep!
For some of us, getting the recommended number of hours of sleep per night is unheard of. In fact, according to data from YouGov, one in three (32%) Australians are considered in “sleep debt” and do not get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Their research also found that more than eight in ten (or 85% of) Australians wake up at least once a night, while the remaining 15% sleep through. Similarly in New Zealand, a study by Sovereign found that more than a third (35%) of Kiwis reported not getting enough sleep, or that the quality of their sleep was compromised.
There are many different factors that can contribute to poor or lack of sleep. These can include:
- Food—it is recommended that you wait 2 to 3 hours between your last meal and bedtime. Certain foods can also calm your nervous system and trigger a sleep-inducing hormonal response.
- Sleep schedule—setting a regular sleep schedule and sticking to it is important when trying to achieve better sleep. Understanding your sleep cycle and what your body and brain do during these will help you sleep better.
- Temperature—18°C – 22°C is the perfect temperate to ensure better sleep.
- Bright lights and screens—exposure to light during the day are beneficial but nighttime bright light exposure has the opposite effect. Again, this impacts your circadian rhythm by tricking your brain into thinking it’s still daytime. Blue light from electronic devices like smartphones and computers is the worst in this regard.
- Caffeinated beverages—although caffeine has many benefits, it’s a stimulant that has a dramatic effect on your central nervous system. Caffeine can stay elevated in your bloodstream for 6–8 hours after consuming so drinking anything that contains caffeine after 2 pm could still affect your sleep. To kick the caffeine habit, power through with these caffeine-free, energy-boosting snacks!
- Sleep environment—creating a healthy sleep environment is just as important as choosing the right mattress for your needs and establishing good sleep habits. To ensure you get a night of healthy, restorative sleep, consider creating a healthy sleep environment that will set you up for the restorative zzz’s that you need.
- Quality and comfort of your pillow and mattress—Considering that our time spent sleeping is spent lying down, it’s important that you choose a high-quality pillow and mattress that you find comfortable. It’s also recommended that you upgrade your bed at least every 8-10 years.
Although everyone is different, getting more quality sleep may start with simply understanding your sleep habits and choosing the right routine for your lifestyle.
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Content source // ahbeard.com