Sleep is crucial for our health – this is undeniable. But do we know how it helps us feel better?
It's more than just rest, even in a dream our brain keeps on working hard to sort out all the information we get and events we experience during the previous day.
Substantial sleep helps our body heal tissue, and has a positive influence on our metabolism, mood, and brain function.
But what is considered substantial? Let's figure it out!
How many hours of sleep do I need and why?
The amount of sleep one should get depends primarily on age – children and teenagers need more rest to grow and develop intensively while adults require fewer hours to refresh. Here’s a piece of general information on recommended hours of sleep:
65 years and older
Some adults may wonder whether 6 hours of sleep is enough. Well, sometimes it is, especially when you are over 25 years old. It depends on individual health peculiarities and the general state of health.
One adult may feel well-rested after 6 hours of slumber and another feels good after 10.
How much sleep do you need: signs you’re not getting enough
You may notice you don’t rest well at night if you have ever experienced the following conditions:
- inability to wake up easily and a wish to stay in bed (sleep inertia)
- problems with remembering things and staying focused
- feeling sleepy during the day, especially when you are doing something monotonous
- sudden changes in your mood
- junk food and coffee cravings
- weight gain you can’t explain
- depressive mood and irritability
- uncontrollable urge to nod off when you lie down or even sit
- slow reactions and problems with making decisions
- wrinkled skin, dark circles and bags under your eyes
Continuous sleep deprivation may harm your immune system, therefore you might fall ill more often. Furthermore, your chances of getting diabetes, having a heart attack, and hypertension rise significantly. Skipping sleep for too long might also cause hallucinations and depression.
What are the stages of sleep?
There are several stages you undergo. In general, they are divided into non-REM and REM (rapid eye movement) stages, but let’s consider each one in detail.
Non-REM stage 1 (awake): starts when you fall asleep. Your eyes shut more slowly, you can still hear some noise around you.
Non-REM stage 2 (light): you are finally sleeping and don’t realize what’s going on, your body temperature starts to get lower, and your eyes are not moving. However, your muscles may jerk while you fall into a deeper sleep.
Non-REM stage 3 (deep sleep): your brain waves, breath, and heart rate slow down. It is hard to awaken from this stage, but if something disturbs you and you wake up, you might feel disoriented for some time.
REM-sleep: this is the final stage when your eyes start moving quickly and dreams occur. On average, it lasts for 90 minutes. During this time your brain processes information and improves learning skills and memory.
Such a cycle repeats several times during the night. However, people with sleep disorders might not get enough deep dreaming because they usually awake more than normal and simply can’t reach the non-REM deep sleep stage.
Best practice for good sleep
Fortunately, the amount and quality of sleep are things we can influence. We’d like to share some best practices you can implement to be well rested at night.
Avoid stimulants in the afternoon
Try not to drink coffee or similar stimulating drinks in the afternoon. Even the cup of coffee you have several hours before bedtime might affect your rest.
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Mind the schedule
Ideally, you should go to bed and wake up at a certain time each day. This is called a sleep pattern or schedule.
Be patient about adjusting your body clock, because it takes time. You need to train yourself to go to bed at the same time and get up without hitting the snooze button on your alarm clock.
No excuses, no exceptions.
If you want to feel better you need to learn to sleep better.
Put away your gadgets
Don’t watch TV, use smartphones or tablets when it’s time to sleep – put them aside at least an hour before your head hits the pillow.
The blue light they emit is not only harmful to your eyes but decreases the amount of melatonin (sleeping hormone) that is responsible for your circadian rhythms.
Thus, you might stay awake and then take longer to fall asleep if you use gadgets right before bedtime.
Control the temperature in your bedroom
During sleep, our core’s temperature lowers together with breathing tempo and heart rate. If it’s too warm in your bedroom, you might experience trouble falling asleep. But if you air the room and let it cool off a bit, you will fall asleep more quickly and easily.
Stick to a routine
Going to bed is a process you should pay attention to every night. You should switch to a relaxed mode – no active exercises, no TV and smartphone distractions, and nothing super exciting.
Choose the routine that fits you best, either have some relaxing herbal tea, take a warm shower, brush your teeth, get your pajamas on, meditate or read a book.
So, not only does the number of sleeping hours matter, but also the way you get ready to go to bed. Sometimes it is enough to adjust your lifestyle a bit to become a super sleeper and stay more energetic during the day.
In order to improve the quality of your sleep, you should know the ins and outs of its cycle and what can affect it. Now that you are aware of what a night of good sleep looks you can do, you canstart feeling better in the morning.
If you want to take your sleeping habits to a new level, you may use trackers to see how much sleep you get at night and be more aware of how many hours of REM and non-REM stages you are getting.
To reach a precise conclusion to the question: How many hours of sleep do you need? You can use specific calculators to find out.
If you take a few simple steps towards improving the quality of your sleep, you will be able to change your life for the better.
But if you feel you can’t cope with problems on your own, contact your doctor to find out if there are certain medical reasons for your lack of sleep. Stay healthy and always try to sleep well!