How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?
Imagine waking up each morning invigorated, but not stressed. You are well-rested, but not groggy. You slept deeply but feel ready to leave the bed. Sounds amazing of course, yet how often is that really the case?
Sadly, that perfect scenario is rarely the case for many people in their daily lives. All too often we’re tempted to hit the snooze button at least once, thinking, “just a few more minutes…just a little longer until you have to face the day.” What’s up with this little button? Is it really a positive thing in our lives, allowing us to have those few more delicious minutes of rest? Or is it encouraging avoidance behavior and even making us late?!
According to a 2014 study by a French tech company, around 57% of Americans regularly use the snooze button. And startlingly, we will spend about 3.5 months of our lives doing so. Wow. Those seemingly innocent minutes really do add up.
Whether or not the snooze button is a helpful invention or a hindrance in our lives, the motivation behind it is simple: We want more sleep!
When the stress of work, school, taking care of a family or any number of situations becomes too much, sleep is usually the first thing to go. After all, we have priorities and if often seems like our priorities will benefit if we give more time and energy to them, even at the cost of cutting sleep short. However, that is not the biological truth for us humans!
We—our brains, bodies, and social systems—need rest before almost anything else.
Sleep deprivation has serious effects on your health, especially your brain. There is an undeniable science behind this! You’re more likely to crash your car and even experience emotional imbalances. On top of that, sleep is the number one determinant of longevity, outweighing even diet and exercise. Yes, how much you sleep is more closely related to how long you will live than any diet or exercise routine. It’s undeniably crucial to your health, and these days we seem to be getting less and less of it.
It’s time to prioritize sleep. For your health, your brain, and for the people in your life. What is life if we feel like we are just drifting through, from one caffeinated beverage to the next? Natural energy is a big indicator of natural vitality.
Let’s take a look at how much you really need and the documented results of what happens when you’re not getting enough. Press the snooze button on your current task for a second and consider. If you’re still curious, my Sleep Quiz has more info.
How much sleep do we really need?
The experts agree and the majority of medical knowledge states that a healthy adult needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night. Teenagers need a little more, about 9 ½ hours.
Why do we need sleep in the first place?
The primary reason you need sleep is to restore brain function. Resting can be restorative for the organs and muscles, and nothing will keep your brain operating efficiently more than sleeping well. Not getting enough sleep, on the other hand, will wreak havoc on your mind and affect your whole system. Brain scans of sleep-deprived individuals showed a huge dip in activity across the entire brain, especially in the cortico-thalamic network. The corto-thalamic network regulates higher cognitive processing, including your attention span.
Maybe even scarier is sleep deprivation’s effect on human emotions. We say we feel emotions in our heart or even in our gut, but emotional regulation is controlled exclusively by the brain. This is why people feel moody when not getting enough shut-eye. The brain isn’t able to fire on all cylinders in the emotional department. In one incredibly interesting study that backs this up,
54 adults were asked to identify the main human emotion in a photo catalog of facial expressions. They first did this following a usual night’s rest and again in a sleep deprived state.
The sleep-deprived people could NOT distinguish between happiness and sadness in the photos. Instead, they only registered more primal facial cues. That could have huge repercussions across work, relationships, families and your own mental health. It infers that you are not able to appropriately relate to people on an emotional level if you’re in a sleep-deprived state. Attention span and cognitive reasoning are compromised. Disagreements and tensions with people in the world surely arise from an inability to read emotions.
Even after deciding whether or not to hit the snooze button, getting the aforementioned 7-9 hours has ripple effects. You’re even more likely to crash your car! The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a study that found drivers with 5 to 6 hours of sleep are twice as likely to crash as drivers with 7 or more hours of shut-eye. And 20% of car accidents in the U.S. are caused by drowsy drivers. Many experts will say that sleep deprivation is more intoxicating behind the wheel than alcohol.
If that’s not enough to convince you to prioritize your sleep, maybe your metabolism will:
The link between circadian rhythm and metabolic function.
The circadian rhythm is an ancient biological clock present in most living things. It is based on light and dark, dictating sleep at night and wakefulness during the day. In humans, when the circadian clock is off balance, so is everything else.
This is a prime reason why you need to be sleeping at night and awake during the day. Individuals with disrupted circadian rhythms are more likely to have health problems like obesity, diabetes and high Body Mass Index (BMI). Like their sleep patterns, their metabolism is completely out-of-whack.
Your metabolism operates in part by receiving signals from the brain. The human brain has a designated area that responds to the circadian rhythm (if you’re curious, check out the thyroid too). And light and dark cause the brain to send specific signals to the metabolism. Insufficient sleep compromises the metabolism and consequently, can make you gain weight unhealthily.
What to do?
First and foremost, prioritize your sleep. Dedicate a full 7 to 9 hours to being asleep and realize that allocating more time to projects and less to sleep will ultimately hurt you in the end. If you need a little extra help, make sure to do the following:
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
- Consume minimal caffeine, especially after 3 pm.
- Get sunlight during the day. (This keeps the circadian rhythm functioning properly.)
- Keep the bedroom device-free…or turn off your devices at least one hour before going to bed and place them out of arm’s reach.
- Exercise regularly. (We love a blend of strength and stretching, like power yoga)
Depending on what side you’re on, the snooze button may be a great thing or an interference to getting on with your day. Instead of relying on it for a few more minutes of shut-eye, make a full night’s sleep a priority in your life. The brain NEEDS it to keep you alert, emotionally relatable and healthy.
No matter your profession or position in life, more sleep is going to benefit you overall. Drink chamomile tea, count those sheep, treat yourself to, a foot sauna experience or sip my Sweet Sleep Banana Elixir.
Better yet… Why don’t you try immersing yourself in my SleepWell Program?
If you experience ANY challenges with your sleep, and you know your sleep could be deeper and more restful…the SleepWell System is for you. It will give you a variety of new rituals that connect you to natural elements essential to optimum sleep, beauty and well-being. You can implement this system right away and feel the benefits immediately.
You deserve amazing sleep, Beauty. Do whatever it takes to feel your best because you deserve it!