How Much Sleep Do You Need?

Sleep By the Numbers

Getting the correct amount of sleep can help lead to a more productive and energetic lifestyle. In many cases a strong sleep pattern can lead to a longer life. Most adults can expect to sleep 7 hours or more every day, while the older teen 13-18 will need between 8-10 hours. Six-year-olds up to twelve will need more sleep at 9-12 hours, and more sleep for each age bracket going down, with infants needing up to 14 hours of sleep. With all this said, each person will need a specific amount of sleep depending on their own needs, including lifestyle and age.

Sleep Deprivation

Lack of sleep is called Sleep Deprivation and there are many signs for a person who is experiencing lack of sleep. If a person is sitting down, just for a moment, and find themselves nodding off, almost immediately, this is a sing of sleep deprivation. After laying in bed at night and falling asleep within 5 minutes, an alarm clock is needed to rise from slumber daily, sitting in a movie theatre and can’t stay awake, finding it difficult to rise from bed daily, everytime the eyes close during the day a short microsleep takes effect, finding it hard to concentrate on tasks at a hand, feeling sleepy and half awake throughout the day, experiencing mood swings, forgetting things throughout the day, and sleeping in much later than days that you have a specific time you need to be up are all signs of sleep deprivation.

Many studies have been done on sleep deprivation. The studies show clearly that sleep deprivation is dangerous and needs to be taken seriously. During a driving simulator study, when sleep deprived of just a few hours sleep took the driving test it showed that hand-eye coordination dropped to the level of a person who is intoxicated on alcohol. Being sleep deprived will even influence how much alcohol it takes to cause impairment.

REM and Deep Sleep

Sleep is important for overall health. How much sleep is the normal question that is asked, however the quality of sleep can be even more important than the length of sleep intervals. There are four different levels of sleep that are gauged by the brain. The first two levels are a light sleep. Stage 1 of sleep is a short period of time, usually around several minutes, and this sleep is a very light sleep. Relaxing heartbeat, breathing patterns, and eye movements slow and the overall body relaxes into sleep. This first stage is the transition from daytime wakefulness into readiness for eventing sleep.

In stage two of sleep the body and mind fall a bit deeper into sleep. The heart rate slows along with breathing even more than stage 1. Body temperature begins to shift and drops. Eye movements come to a complete stop. Brain activities slow, but begin to experience great jumps of electrical activities. Stage two is the longest cycle, spending more time than stage 1 or 3.

The first three stages of sleep are non-REM sleeping stages. In the third stage of sleep the heart rate and breathing patterns slow to the lowest levels that will be experienced during sleep. Muscles become completely relaxed and this is the stage when it is difficult to wake a person, because brain waves are also at their slowest level. During stage three of sleep the body repairs itself and tissues, promotes growth and development, boosts the immune system, and also creates energy for the next day.

Stage four of sleep is the most needed sleep and this is the REM pattern sleep level. Humans need REM sleep. After approximately 90 minutes after initially falling asleep great changes occur in the body and mind. Eye movement becomes rapid and sometimes continuous. Eyes will go up, down, left, and right darting around quickly. The heart rate goes up, raising one’s pulse. Breathing speeds up alongside blood pressure. This fourth stage of sleep is when the human mind will experience the dream state. REM sleep is when the brain handles information and takes all the information that has been taken in during the day and organizes the information for the long-term memory bank.

What is Enough Sleep

Just as there are signs showing when a person is not getting enough sleep, there are signs when a person is getting enough sleep. Some of the biggest clues a person is getting enough sleep are; waking in the morning and feeling refreshed, being productive and vigorous throughout the day, not feeling tired over the course of the day, is caffeine not needed to make it through the day, and sleep patterns hold overall regular, even on days with no specific time to get out of bed.

Overall, lifestyle and age will determine how much sleep a person may need to feel healthy and vibrant throughout the day. Yet, there are other things to consider when thinking about sleep patterns. Sleep quality is one of the most overlooked important factors in sleep. If a person is being constantly interrupted by noises, people chatting, a knock at the door, or many other interruptions, the odds are this sleep is less than optimal. The quality of sleep is as important or maybe even more important the quantity of sleep. There are other specific instances that people need to consider. Previous sleep deprivation can cause the need for even more sleep to try and catch up on sleep, however, catching up on sleep will not work. When a woman is pregnant, their hormone levels change and a lack of quality sleep can lead to discomfort in the body. Age is a very important factor and generally speaking the young adult sleep the same amount as older adults. Things do begin to change when a person becomes an older adult. Older adults begin to sleep much lighter and get much less sleep overall, waking up many times over the course of the night.