How Much Sleep Do We Actually Need? The Answer is NOT 8 Hours
Do you ever find yourself tired and drowsy despite getting eight hours of sleep every night? Well, that’s because eight hours is no longer the optimal amount of sleep you need to feel well-rested throughout the day, according to a sleep expert.
8 Hours Not Good Enough
Getting enough sleep every night as a regular part of your routine is crucial for good mental and physical health. Inadequate rest has several short-term implications such as lack of concentration, lethargy and poor memory, as well as serious long-term effects including increased risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and even an early death.
But how much sleep do you really need to function as a healthy human being? If you thought eight hours, then you’re wrong. Sleep experts are claiming that the amount of stress we experience in our every-day lives has increased so much that we need at least eight-and-a-half hours of shut-eye time every night.
We may not have figured out why we need sleep but we do know that we cannot function properly without it. We’ve all had days when getting enough rest doesn’t seem possible, and the lack of sleep leaves us out of energy and motivation the next day.
According to the recommendation by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, National Institutes of Health and American Academy of Sleep Medicine, adults should get no less than 7 hours of sleep every night, with 8 hours being the optimum requirement. Daniel Gartenberg, a sleep expert and professor at Pennsylvania State University, says that even 8 hours of rest every night is not enough anymore.
Why Sleep More?
Gartenberg, like several other researchers, suggests that daily sleep requirement for adults need to be stretched out to 8.5 hours for two separate reasons: to factor in the extra time it requires to fall asleep and wake up, and to process the enormous amount of information we assimilate every day. The new requirement also accounts for those who are naturally inclined to sleep less.
Gartenberg says that due to the age of technology we live it, our brains are constantly bombarded with information that we won’t be likely to remember if we don’t sleep well enough. It is only during the hours of our deepest sleep that our mind sifts through the information and retains what is relevant while discarding the rest.
Much of Gartenberg’s research during his career has focused on the brain’s capability to sort information during sleep through a process called synaptic homeostasis, which is our body’s main function, besides cell repair. The researcher says that humans take in an average of 34 GB worth of information every day, a number that is far more than it was in 1940’s when the eight-hour average sleep recommendation was established.
The only downside of learning too many things in one day is the time it takes to process and sort the new information. Apart from the frequent bombardment of information, people are getting fewer hours of sleep nowadays than they were many decades ago. In the 1940’s a survey showed that most American adults were able to get eight hours of sleep every night, but now, the number has shrunk to seven hours.
Healthy Sleep Hygiene
But simply getting in bed just in time to get the recommended amount of sleep isn’t enough. Normally, adults don’t fall asleep as soon as their head hits the pillow and it often takes a few good minutes after the alarm rings in the morning to actually wake up.
Taking into account the amount of information our brain needs to process every night and the additional time it takes to fall asleep and wake up, it makes sense to extend the number of sleeping hours to 8.5.
Moreover, adults tend to be light sleepers who wake up several times during the night, often without even realizing it. Gartenberg’s experiment shows that people can even wake to the slightest sound of 70 decibels and have no recollection of it in the morning.
Technology is also an important factor which causes sleep delay. Most people tend to stare at their bright smartphone screens until late at night, which only suppresses the release of sleep hormone, melatonin, and therefore causes sleeplessness. Gartenberg recommends practicing proper sleep hygiene such as turning off lights, shutting down all noise sources and putting away cellphones before going to bed.
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