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How Much Sleep Do You Need?

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2020-04-28 12:32:11

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Just like eating, sleeping is a basic but important function of our daily lives. Without sleeping, we cannot function optimally and can even experience adverse health effects that can cause a lot of problems. Unfortunately, not everybody has the luxury to sleep well or sleep for 7-8 hours every night. In fact, most people don’t realize how much sleep they require to stay healthy and fail to avoid the negative consequences of sleep deprivation as they don’t notice the signs early on. In this article, we will discuss the amount of sleep you need to function optimally, the factors that affect the quality of your sleep, and how you can improve sleep quality by making simple changes.

The importance of sleeping well

When you sleep at night, your body not only recovers from the loss of energy that you have spent during the day but also performs complex biological functions that are necessary to remain healthy. It is a restorative process that allows the body to repair physical damage on a cellular level and the mind to retain emotional sanity. During sleep, the brain remains active and oversees the process of maintaining your vitality, heart health, weight, and immunity.

Without adequate sleep, you would notice a sharp decline in your ability to stay focused and handle stress in the short-term. As a result, your productivity and mood would be negatively affected. Long-term sleep deficiency can cause permanent physical and mental health problems. In fact, your ability to stay awake during the day would be severely impacted without proper sleep and this can result in many accidents or unwanted consequences.

Thus, the importance of sleeping well cannot be put into words. Considering the various benefits that we receive without lifting a finger and the severe side-effects that follow when there is a lack of sleep, it would be foolish to sacrifice sleep in order to do any other activity. If you cannot sleep well at night, you should contact a doctor immediately.

Sleeping needs with respect to different age groups and other important factors

There are a lot of factors that determine the amount of sleep that a person needs. This includes their age-group, lifestyle factors, and health conditions as well. Given below is a table that lists the sleep duration by age group following the official recommendations set by the National Sleep Foundation.

Newborns (0-3 months) - 14-17 hours

Infants (4-11 months) - 12-15 hours (including naps)

Toddlers (1-2 years) - 11-14 hours (including naps)

Preschoolers (3-5 years) - 10-13 hours (including naps)

School Children (6-13 years) - 9-11 hours

Teenagers (14-17 years) - 8-10 hours

Adults (18-64 years) - 7-9 hours

Senior Adults (65+ years) - 7-8 hours 


Other factors that you should keep in mind are listed below:

1. Pregnancy - Early pregnancy causes a lot of changes in your body. A lot of energy is spent during the first trimester to nurture the baby developing inside the womb. As a result, pregnant women feel more tired during this period and require more sleep.

2. Chronic history of sleep deprivation - People who have a history of suffering from chronic sleep deprivation experience a change in normal sleeping schedule. They need to sleep more than normal in a suitable environment to reverse the damages caused due to a deficiency in sleep.

3. Sleep quality - Just sleeping in a bed for a long period is not enough to remain healthy. You need to sleep well for longer as well. Some people don’t sleep well at night due to certain health conditions, bad sleeping environment, or bad sleeping habits. If you don’t sleep well, you will suffer no matter how long you lay in your bed. On the other hand, people who sleep well can get away with sleep less than average.

4. Genetic makeup - Every individual is different and has a unique genetic makeup.  Genetic mutations allow some people to experience deeper sleep which allows them to sleep less than the average individual. Similarly, certain people with other types of genetic mutation suffer more from the effects of sleep deprivation. This is a factor that cannot be assessed or controlled. So, you should keep this in mind and realize the needs of your own body to figure out how many hours you need to sleep at night.
 

The different stages of sleep: REM vs Non-REM

The different stages of sleep can be primarily divided into 2 stages - REM and Non-REM. Non-REM (Non-rapid eye movement) sleep can be further divided into 3 types - Stage N1, Stage N2, and Stage N3. The various sleep stages are described in detail below:
 

Non-REM Sleep

  • Stage N1 - This is the sleep stage that you enter first and it lasts for about 5-10 minutes. During this stage, the muscles in the body begin to relax, eye movements slow down, and the heart rate and breathing slow down. This is a light form of sleep and it is not unusual for some people to experience ‘hypnic jerks’ or wake-up during this stage.
     
  • Stage N2 - You enter this stage after the N1 stage is complete. It lasts for about 10-25 minutes and gets progressively longer with each sleep cycle. During this sleep stage, your brain waves become slower, muscles relax even more, heart rate slows furthers, and eye movement stops.
     
  • Stage N3 - This is the final stage of Non-REM sleep which is often referred to as ‘deep’ sleep, ‘delta’, and ‘slow-wave’. It typically lasts for about 20-40 minutes but gets shorter during the second half of the sleep. You must experience this sleep stage to heal your body and feel refreshed when you wake up. It is the most difficult to wake up a person during this stage.

REM Sleep

You enter the REM a.k.a the rapid eye movement stage after the N3 stage which is about 90 minutes after when you first fall asleep. It lasts for about 10 minutes and the duration of the REM stage gets longer progressively after each sleep cycle. During this stage, your body temperature falls, and the muscles of your arms and legs are deeply relaxed. This is the stage when you dream and it is responsible for boosting your mental health and mood.

The 4 different stages of sleep occur in a specific sequence. This is known as a sleep cycle. When you sleep at night, you experience 4-5 sleep cycles. When experiencing these stages of sleep, your body responds differently and triggers different functions. Thus, it is important for your body to go through all the sleep stages to get the most benefits. However, it is only possible when your sleep is not interrupted and you sleep well.
 

The signs on sleep deprivation

The most common symptom of sleep deprivation and sleep deficiency includes tiredness during the day. It can greatly affect your personal, social, and work-life and reduce your productivity. Thus, it is crucial to notice the signs of sleep deprivation early on to prevent any damage. The most important signs of sleep deprivation are listed below:
 

  • Dozing when watching TV or reading, sitting in a public place, or in your car when stuck in traffic
  • A lack of focus
  • Trouble remembering things or controlling your emotions
  • Frequent mood swings
  • A strong desire to nap in the afternoon
  • Feel sluggish or groggy when working
     

Factors that can affect your sleep quality and duration

Several factors can affect your sleep quality and duration. To prevent the risk of suffering from sleep deprivation and sleep deficiency, you have to notice these factors and work on fixing them if possible. A few important factors that can affect your sleep are listed below:
 

  • A busy work schedule that restricts the amount of sleeping time
  • A work schedule that goes against your circadian rhythm or body’s internal clock
  • Bad lifestyle choices like consuming drugs or alcohol
  • Diagnosed or undiagnosed medical conditions such as sleep disorders, panic disorders, etc.
     

The effects of sleep deprivation on your health

Long-term sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on your mental and physical health. It is difficult to fix these problems after you cross a certain stage. Some of the serious consequences of sleep deprivation are listed below:
 

  • Impaired brain function that affects memory, concentration, and learning skills
  • Impaired motor skills that increase the risk of accidents
  • The decline of mental health that results in delirium and hallucinations
  • Lack of motivation and energy which results in lethargy and fatigue
  • Increased risk of depression which results in mood disorder and irritability
  • Increased stress and anxiety
  • The decline in the functioning of the immune system which results in frequent infections, cold, and other diseases
  • Increased risk of serious medical conditions like obesity, diabetes, stroke, certain cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart diseases.


A few tips that you should follow to sleep better

Unless you suffer from a medical condition, it is possible to improve the quality of your sleep by following the tips listed below:

1. Sleep on a suitable mattress - The most important factor that decides the quality of your sleep aside from your health and sleeping environment is your mattress. Sleeping on a mattress that is old or not suitable for your body type can put unwanted pressure on your joints and cause pain. It can adversely affect the quality of your sleep and deteriorate your health in the long run.

Don’t worry if you don’t know how to find the mattress that is most suitable for your sleeping needs and body. It is easy to find a good mattress online by visiting KingKoil which is known as one of the best mattress brands in India. The unique SleepID software developed by the company in collaboration with the International Chiropractor’s Association allows users to find the best mattresses for their sleeping needs within 2 minutes and a few mouse clicks.

2. Sleep in a suitable environment - Nobody can sleep well in a noisy or smelly environment. The ideal environment of your bedroom should be dark, cool, and quiet. Preferably, the temperature of your room should be between 15-24°C when sleeping at night. The air in your bedroom should not feel stale or stink. Proper ventilation can help you avoid smells while wearing an eye mask that can reduce the amount of light that enters your eye when you sleep.

3. Maintain healthy sleeping habits - Avoid any exposure to bright light at least 1-2 hours before going to bed. This helps to produce the sleep hormone melatonin. Thus, you should reduce the time you spend on TV, smartphones, laptops, tablets, or PCs just before hitting the bed. Practice deep breathing exercises and other types of relaxation techniques to help you fall asleep faster. It would also allow you to reduce your fatigue and destress yourself.

Exercise in the morning instead of doing it in the evening. A warm shower before hitting the bed helps a lot to destress your mind and body and reach the optimal mental state for sleeping.

4. Follow a good diet - Your diet can affect a lot of things including your sleep quality. So, always remember to consume healthy foods. Avoid drinking alcohol, and stimulants like coffee or nicotine close to night-time. Alcohol can increase the symptoms of sleep apnea and even disrupt your sleeping patterns while stimulants would prevent you from falling asleep easily.

5. Sleep in sync with your natural sleep-wake cycle - The best way to keep in sync with your circadian rhythm or your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle is to establish a pre-sleep routine and stick to it. Sleep when you naturally feel tired and wake up when you feel refreshed. Note the schedule and try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. It would help you maintain the internal clock in your body and sleep well every night.

Conclusion

You must sleep for at least 7-8 hours every day to reduce the risk of sleep deficiency and maintain your daytime performance. Sleep helps you to maintain your emotional well-being and healthy brain function. If you don’t get quality sleep you can suffer from a range of diseases like diabetes, heart diseases, stroke, kidney diseases, and high blood pressure.

If you experience a lack of energy even after sleeping for 7-8 hours and following the tips stated above, it can indicate a more complicated problem. The first step to fixing this problem is to sleep on a suitable mattress that can compliment your sleeping habits and fulfill your sleeping requirements. You may also consider consuming supplements that help to improve sleep quality after consulting with a doctor. Some popular sleep supplements include melatonin, Ginkgo Biloba, valerian root, magnesium, L-theanine, glycine, and lavender.

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