Although the usual amount of sleep for most adults is thought to be an average of seven to nine hours a night, many of us regularly fall short. Find out how much sleep is right for you and how to identify any sleeping disorders.
How much sleep do we need?
Since everyone is different, there are no official recommendations about how much sleep we need. Most adults require up to nine hours of sleep a night but you may need more or less, depending on your lifestyle. When it comes to sleep, quality is more important than quantity. A good night’s sleep will help keep your mind and body healthy so you wake up feeling rested and recharged.
Why do we need to sleep?
Good quality sleep is essential for our overall health and wellbeing. It helps your mind and body unwind and recover as well as giving you energy for the day ahead. As well as boosting your immune system, a restful night’s sleep reduces stress levels and has a positive effect on your moods and emotions.
How can you tell if you’re sleep deprived?
Feeling tired throughout the day is a sign that you may be lacking enough good quality sleep. Tiredness may be an obvious indication, but if you’re used to coping with constant fatigue you may not notice. Waking up feeling slow and lethargic as well as needing naps to get through the day are also common clues. Becoming drowsy or sleepy after heavy meals, in meetings or lectures, or falling asleep watching TV are also things to look out for. Other tell-tale signs include poor concentration, irritability and an inability to cope with stress.
What happens when we don’t get enough sleep?
As well as making you feel tired and fatigued, not sleeping well enough or for long enough can have a big impact on your health. Night after night or poor quality sleep increases your chances of developing serious medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. It can also lead to anxiety and depression as well as weight gain.
What are the effects of sleeping too long?
Some scientific studies have shown that sleeping more than nine or ten hours may be linked to obesity and an increased risk of developing diabetes and heart problems. Taking this into account, bear in mind that having the odd lie-in or having a few extra hours in bed from time to time is unlikely to cause any lasting damage to your health. But if you find yourself regularly sleeping over ten hours a night, then you may need to contact your GP for advice.
Why do people sleep too much?
From medical conditions to medications and alcohol, there are several factors that can cause people to oversleep. Sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnoea can interrupt regular sleep cycles which leaves people tired, fatigued and in need of more rest. Hypersomnia is another sleep disorder that causes sufferers to feel drowsy during the day and sleep for longer times at night. Taking some over-the-counter and prescription medicines may also result in oversleeping.
Signs and symptoms of sleep disorders
From time to time, everyone has problems getting to sleep. In most cases, these problems usually only last for a short period of time. In contrast, several weeks or months of poor sleep could be a sign that you may have a sleeping disorder.
What are the common effects of sleeping disorders?
Even missing one night of sleep leaves most of us feeling drained and ill-tempered. However, after an extended period of not getting enough sleep, our everyday lives are usually affected. This often leads to irritability, low energy levels, poor concentration and the inability handle stress or to carry out tasks at work or school. Personal relationships and social lives can also suffer in the long run.
What are some common signs to look out for?
If you feel you may have a sleep disorder, pay attention to any tell-tale signs of sleep deprivation that often show themselves in the daytime. The warning signs include regularly feeling sleepy during the day, having difficulty concentrating, feeling tired when driving and struggling to cope with stress or your emotions. Relying on energy drinks or caffeine to keep your energy levels up may also be a sign of a sleeping problem.
What can I do to help myself?
Familiarise yourself with your symptoms and sleep patterns so you can identify how to improve your sleep. Keeping a record of the times you wake up and fall asleep is the first step to improving your sleep problems. Sticking to a regular bedtime, getting rid of distractions and winding down properly before going to bed are just some of the techniques you can use to help. Avoid stimulants like caffeine, nicotine and alcohol too as they can keep you awake. If the problems persist, you may need to visit your GP for advice.