People spend about one-third of their lives sleeping. Which may seem excessive, considering that there always seems to be so much to do, and so little time in which to do it. But those hours we spend unconscious are essential for our overall well-being. If we don’t get enough quality sleep, and on the regular, our mental health, physical health, quality of life and safety can all suffer. When we’re asleep, our bodies are given the chance to recover at the cellular level, to replenish energy and more.
Still, getting enough rest can often seem like an impossible feat. And now, that mission may be even more difficult.
Sleep scientist Daniel Gartenberg says that eight hours may not cut it for some people while, for others, eight hours may be overkill.
In fact, the National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults aim for seven to nine hours of sleep every night. This is keeping in mind that eight hours in bed don’t necessarily equal eight hours of sleep. “[H]ealthy sleepers spend more than 90% of the time in bed asleep,” says Gartenberg, “so if you’re in bed for eight hours, a healthy sleeper might actually sleep for only about 7.2 hours.”
How can you know which camp you fall into? Is seven hours sufficient for you, or does your body need closer to nine? According to Gartenberg, how much sleep you need is personal, and whether you’re a “morning person” or a “night owl” is written in your genes.
The National Sleep Foundation provides a few simple questions that can help you figure out how much sleep your body needs each night. Among them:
- Are you productive — and feel healthy and happy — on just seven hours of sleep? Or do you need nine before you feel ready to tackle the day?
- Do you have health issues that might affect the amount of sleep you need to function?
- Are you experiencing sleep problems, such as restless leg syndrome, insomnia or sleep apnea?
- Do you depend on caffeine in order to get through the day?
- Do you feel sleepy when you’re driving?”
To help further, the Foundation recently added several new age categories to its sleep chart. It now includes separate categories for young adults (age 18-25) and older adults (age 65 and up). Research recommends that both younger adults and adults should sleep for seven to nine hours, while older adults are more likely to only need seven to eight hours.
Still, sleep is a relatively new area of scientific research, so we can expect more updates and discoveries to come.
That’s something that can help us all rest easy.