When it comes to sleep, it can feel like we’re in a constant tug of war between what we want and what our schedules allow. Is there a magic number of just how much sleep we need? Our bodies tell us one thing (keep snoozing), our agenda tells us another (uh, you might want to roll out of bed if you want to make it work on time!), and, somewhere in the mix, there’s an “expert” opinion. So, when it comes to sleep, how much is too much? Or, too little? And who, really, has all the answers?
Who are these experts? These authorities who have the final say-so on slumber? While research-driven entities exist for every anatomical part and developmental stage imaginable (not to mention and a million and one professional associations who also have an opinion on your sleep), there’s no hard and fast rule to determine your perfect sleep duration.
But, don’t be discouraged just yet!
The Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH)- an international, independent organization of scientists, health professionals, and scholars convened before issuing a summary of how much sleep we should be getting.
Their findings? For most adults, they recommend 7-8 hours nightly to maintain good physical and cognitive health. As sleep is more easily interrupted as you age (with deep sleep decreasing most commonly in adults between the ages of 30 to 60 years old), extra effort is required to ensure that you get the sleep you need and to maximize sleep’s restorative benefits.
But what about listening to our bodies? Did the notion of listening to our internal cues just go out the window? Of course not!
We all know it when we feel it- that sort of easy drifting into a waking state after a good night’s sleep. We awaken feeling refreshed and alive. But why is that refreshed feeling, sometimes, so elusive? Maybe even after you’ve had a full eight hours…
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Because our sleep-wake cycle isn’t tied to the opinions of experts we’ve never met….our sleep habits are connected to our unique physiology. Many other internal factors affect the quality of our sleep and, in turn, our personal requirement for sleep duration (i.e., diet/metabolism, emotional wellbeing, medical wellbeing, etc….and, most of us can attest to the night spent tossing and turning while battling the common cold.) Anyone of these factors can contribute to the delinquency of our ability to feel rested at the end of a sleep cycle.
Studies consistently show that both too much and too little sleep impact memory, disease risk, and mental health. So, don’t disregard your own physical cues; pay attention to what your body is telling you…and trust your instincts. Your body will tell you what it needs through the way you feel. It will tell you when you wake up if you’ve had enough sleep and when to head to bed…if you take the time to listen.
If you feel rested enough to wake up and face the day, chances are you’re sleeping enough for your unique sleep requirements. If you can barely drag yourself out of bed when the alarm clock sounds, maybe you shouldn’t let your work schedule or the advice of experts dictate your sleep schedule. If- like many of us- you can’t adjust your hours for more sleep in the morning, allow adequate time for sleep by modifying your nightly routine. Make sleep a priority!