Sleep: How much you really need?

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Part One

‘If you can’t sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there and worrying.  It’s the worry that gets you, not the loss of sleep.’ —Dale Carnegie, American writer and lecturer

If you are constantly checking your Facebook on your phone or browser, then there’s one thing you need to know: You’re not getting enough sleep, according to a recent research done at the University of California.  Professor Gloria Mark, who led the study, asked students to fill out a sleep survey; activity was monitored on their phones and computers—logging when they switched from one window to another, texted or made a phone call.

“There have been lots of studies on how information technology affects sleep,” Mark was quoted in an article published by The Independent.  “We did the opposite: We looked at how sleep duration influences IT [iformation technology] usage.”

According to the study, there’s a connection between lack of sleep, low mood and incessant checking of social media.  The study also found that the lesser the sleep, the most likely a person switches between screens and windows.

“When you get less sleep, you’re more prone to distraction,” Mark pointed out.  “If you’re being distracted, what do you do?  You go on Facebook.  It’s lightweight, it’s easy and you’re tired.”

This brings us to the holy grail of questions that’s as old as time itself: “How much sleep does a person really need?”

Magic number

Most people contend that the magic number for a decent night’s sleep is eight hours.  But is this for all people, old and young alike?

Dr. Jerome Siegel, who studies sleep at the University of California at Los Angeles, told New Scientist that the eight-hour rule has no basis at all. His study of tribal cultures with no access to electricity showed that people get just six or seven hours of sleep.

“And those people are pretty healthy,” said Dr. Jerk Jan Dijk of the University of Surrey at United Kingdom.  Most sleep experts, however, claim the amount of sleep a person needs varies on many factors, one of which is age.  In an interview with The Independent, Dr. Ana Noia, a senior clinical physiologist in neurophysiology and sleep at Bupa Cromwell Hospital, explained that sleep needs can vary according to the individual but as a standard rule, the sleep needs changes with age.

Here’s what Noia disclosed:

  • Newborns need 16 to 18 hours a day.
  • 2-year-old toddlers typically need on average 11 to 13 hours.
  • By the age of 5, children will sleep between 10 and 12 hours.
  • Teenagers definitely don’t need sleep enough and should be getting eight to 10 hours.
  • From the age of 20 onward, it is normal to sleep seven to nine hours.

Once you’re older than 65, the amount of sleep you need actually decreases, to around five to seven hours.

Noia, however, recommends that adult people—those more than 60 years old—sleep between seven and eight hours a night.

In the article, written by Olivia Blair, Noia said the need to rest the eyes for different amounts of time depending on a person’s age comes down to complex changes in how the brain develops, the circadian rhythm, environmental factors, work and social needs and demands.

Further explanation from Noia: “For instance, the vast amount of sleep children require is because the hormone melatonin, which helps us sleep, reaches its peak at around seven or eight years old.  This begins decreasing during the midteen years until the age of 70 when it is essentially nonexistent in our bodies, meaning the need for sleep decreases.  Additionally, elderly people are likely to find their quality of sleep is worse than when they were younger because sleep becomes more fragmented.”

Sleep deprivation

Are you getting enough sleep?  “The best way to figure out if you’re meeting your sleep needs is to evaluate how you feel as you about your day,” the US National Sleep Foundation (NSF) said.  “If you’re logging enough sleep hours, you’ll feel energetic and alert all day long, from the moment you wake up until your regular bedtime.”  Now, if you’re not getting enough sleep—as required—chances are you’re sleep deprived.  Sleep deprivation is just more than falling face first into your dinner plate.  It can be sleeping when you’re in a boring meeting or struggling through the afternoon slump.

The book Your Guide to Healthy Sleep enumerates the following signs of sleep deprivation: need an alarm clock in order to wake up on time; have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning; feel sluggish in the afternoon; get sleepy in meetings and lectures; get drowsy after heavy meals or when driving; need to nap to get through the day; fall asleep while watching television or relaxing in the evening; feel the need to sleep in on weekends; and fall asleep within five minutes of going to bed.

Here’s a very interesting fact: In Great Britain it was found that six out of 10 people are sleep deprived, partly because of the advent of smart phones.  Is it the same in the Philippines—or even worse!

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