The amount of sleep a person requires to be healthy is an age-old dispute. Some studies suggest that you need seven to eight hours of peaceful rest each night, yet some individuals operate regularly on only four or five hours of sleep. You may wonder why sleep is so important. Does it really matter how much sleep you get? Can a lack of sleep really effect your cognitive process? Recent studies suggest there are many benefits to a full night’s sleep. These include:
- Improved Concentration
- Enhanced Athletic Performance
- Less Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke
- Decreased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
- Higher Metabolism
- Decreased Hunger
To understand how much sleep you need to function at your best, it might be interesting to have a look at how humans used to sleep. You may just be surprised.
The Middle Ages
In the Middle Ages, it is recorded that people would sleep for four hours then would wake up and do activities for an hour or two and then go back to sleep for another four hours.
Activities ranged from silent reading by candlelight, visiting with nearby neighbors, or spending some intimate moments with a spouse. It seems hard to believe that a restful night’s sleep was regularly broken up each night, and yet people functioned very well using this method.
The Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Getting the proper amount of sleep is essential. Not getting enough sleep or experiencing repeated nights of broken sleep can even lead to psychosis. A lack of sleep doesn’t mean you’ll be going on a murderous rampage, but you will not function at your best and might find yourself being extra sensitive to stimuli. Your brain is an organ, and to function correctly it needs to shut down and recharge.
When you don’t get enough sleep, your body has to compensate for the energy loss and look for it elsewhere. This can cause you to overeat to gain energy from food. Often with the main craving being sugar, or maybe you’ll reach for an excess of caffeine. The sugar will help you get through the day quickly, but after a few hours your body will crash and not function properly.
It doesn’t matter if you’re driving a car or cramming for tomorrow’s test. You will become tired and not able to function efficiently.
The Power of Sleep
Researchers believe that getting somewhere between 7 1/2 to 8 hours of sleep is the ideal number of hours needed to be healthy. Small differences in time can make a significant impact. For example, getting only 7 hours will make a person three times more likely to catch a cold than those who sleep 8 hours or more.
Also, a good night’s sleep reduces inflammation in the body. You will also notice that your ability to catch social cues and process emotions will improve dramatically. Other benefits include:
- Reduced Suicide Rates
- Drop in Depression Rates
- Improved Metabolism
Since most of your immune system rests in your digestive tract, then it makes sense that a solid night’s sleep will dramatically reinforce the body’s ability to heal itself. If you find that you can function well on five hours a night, why not experiment and see how you feel getting a few additional hours of sleep over a period of a few weeks or months.
While the recommended amount of sleep is about eight hours every night, you must also listen to your body. If you still feel groggy-eyed in the morning after sleeping a full eight hours, maybe you need ten.
Or, maybe you’re used to getting ten hours of rest but always feel tired. It is also possible that you may be sleeping too long.
Discuss any medical concerns you have with your healthcare provider. But, generally, each person’s needed amount of sleep is different. Just try out a few variations and see what works best for you. Once you find that perfect balance, you’ll be waking up refreshed and ready to take on life’s challenges each and every day.