How Much Sleep Should I Have?

Grabbing a decent eight hours of kip is often the yardstick by which we measure whether we’re getting enough sleep. But it’s not always an exact science. It depends on you as an individual, your life and your health.

Here we’ll take you through the essentials.

The importance of sleep

Let’s start with why sleep is so important for all of us. Sleep plays such a vital role in your health and well-being throughout your life. Specifically assisting with:

  • Healthy brain function – when you sleep your brain is preparing for the next day, helping you learn and retain information.
  • Productivity – if you’re sleep deprived you’ll likely suffer from a slower reaction time, will make more mistakes and struggle with simple tasks – this can become dangerous when driving or doing certain jobs.
  • Emotional well-being – often poor sleep can result in feelings of anger, depression, mood swings and a decrease in motivation.
  • Physical health – sleep helps heal and repair your heart and blood vessels, with a lack of sleep associated with an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Put simply, getting enough sleep is so important for a happy, healthy and productive life.

So how much sleep are we getting?

According to our Sleep Wellness Survey:

  • 33% of us say we need at least eight hours of sleep a night to feel well rested
  • BUT, only 13% of us actually get that much
  • 90% don’t feel refreshed after sleeping
  • 30% think they don’t get enough sleep

The stats don’t lie. As a nation we’re tired, stressed and sleep deprived. And with this lack of sleep comes physical, emotional and health problems.

Understanding your own personal sleep situation

The Sleep Foundation in the US, has a few general questions to ask yourself to help understand how much sleep you realistically need to function.

They are:

  • Are you productive, healthy and happy on seven hours of sleep?
  • Does it take you nine hours of quality sleep to get you into high gear?
  • Do you have health issues including being overweight?
  • Are you at risk of any disease?
  • Are you experiencing sleep problems?
  • Do you depend on caffeine to get you through the day?
  • Do you feel sleepy when driving?

As a starting point, pose yourself these questions and look critically at how you’re functioning in day to day life. Some answers may vary – new parents will likely always need coffee to get them through, but some may be constant – if you’re always tired when driving this should be a concern.

The recommended amount of sleep

In the UK, the Sleep Council has provided guidelines for all ages on the recommended amount of sleep. They are as follows:

  • 1 – 12 months old: 14 – 15 hours per day
  • 1 – 3 years old: 12 – 14 hours per day
  • 3 – 6 years old: 10 – 12 hours per day
  • 7 – 12 years old: 10 – 11 hours per day
  • 12 – 18 years old: 8 – 9 hours per day
  • 18 – 65 years old: 7 – 9 hours per day
  • 65+: 7 – 8 hours per day

Remember, the above are just guidelines. The right amount of sleep for you will depend on you as an individual. Try and use the above along with the questions from the Sleep Foundation to begin to build a picture of your personal sleep needs.

You’ll have good days and bad days, but on the whole, you should be concerned with the quality of your sleep, along with the amount.

The four stages of sleep – getting quality kip

There are four distinct stages of sleep which will form one sleep cycle lasting around 90 minutes. A good quality sleep will encompass five to six sleep cycles.

  • NREM (non-rapid eye movement sleep) 1 – light phase of sleep – easy to wake from.
  • NREM 2 – moderate phase of sleep – fairly easy to wake from.
  • NREM 3 – deeper sleep – difficult to wake from – can result in confusion and disorientation if woken.
  • REM (rapid eye movement) – this is the deepest sleep and the stage at which we dream.

The quality of your sleep will hinge on staying asleep during each of the stages and through several cycles. If you’re waking regularly and suffering from broken sleep, it’s likely you’ll need to make some health, lifestyle and bedroom changes.

How to sleep better

If you now know you’re not getting the hours you need, or the sleep you are getting is poor quality, all is not lost. There’s plenty you can experiment with to see if your sleep improves. This includes:

  • Make your room darker. Even if you don’t think the amount of the light you’re letting in the room is affecting your sleep, there’s every chance it could be. Try sleeping with an eye mask, keeping the curtains closed or investing in some blackout curtains.
  • Invest in some new pillows. Unable to get comfy? It might just be your pillows. Depending on how you sleep (back, front or side), your pillows may be the wrong height and firmness for you. Try a dedicated back sleeper, front sleeper or side sleeper pillow that suits the way you sleep.
  • Regulate your temperature. Making sure you’re not too cold or too warm is key to good sleep. Obviously, you’ll need to regulate the room temperature where you can, but your bedding could also help. Opting for a 3-in-1 duvet allows you to switch between a 4.5 tog, 9 tog or combine for a 13.5 tog – depending on the weather and time of year.
  • Cut out caffeine after lunchtime. It’s a little-known fact that the caffeine in a cup of coffee could cause you sleep trouble as many as 10 hours after drinking it. That means your morning cuppa won’t be a problem, but anything in the afternoon might. Experiment with cutting out afternoon and evening caffeine to see if it improves the quality of your sleep.
  • Avoid backlit screens before bed. Did you know the bright light emitted from TVs, tablets and smartphones tricks the brain and keeps it active just before bed? In the hour before you turn in, try put the devices down and pick up a good book instead. You can even use an e-reader, as these aren’t usually backlit.

As the nation’s favourite bed specialist, we’re passionate about great sleep. See what Bensons for Beds could do for you.

Bensons for Beds

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