Sleep, we all love it, but probably aren’t getting enough of it. We all know it’s important, but struggle to get to bed of a night-time, 4 hour binge on Netflix, anyone? But come sunrise, it’s a struggle to open our eyes. So, what’s the right answer? More or less? We’ll find out for ya.
The Wall Street Journal recently suggested seven hours trumps eight when clocking in the Zzz’s at night. But, that mightn’t be entirely true. Sleep is regulated by circadian and homeostatic processes – these two interact to determine WHEN we need sleep and HOW MUCH sleep we need. Circadian is basically our own body clock, reflecting how much sleep we’ve had in the last 24 hours and the homesostatic process talks about our body and when we’re feeling tired or fatigued. These two factors when combine together and are pushed one way or another depending on a range of individual factors; exercise, genes, illness etc.
However, the biggest factor which influences our sleep duration is our sleep history. You’re probably not surprised to read that most adults experience sleep restriction, whether that be on a daily or weekly basis. It’s this deprivation which will increase our sleep pressure and push it more out of whack. Due to these individual variations, its hard to pinpoint an exact number for all – but most seem to agree, somewhere between seven and nine hours is the answer.
Why was eight always the magic number?
When sleep is restricted to seven hours or less, we’re likely to have issues with concentration, memory and mood. It also increases our sleep pressure and places us at a higher risk of fatigue. Whereas eight hours has little, if any negative impact on our physical and mental performance. Hence, it’s the ‘right’ amount. Keep in mind, there can be too much of a good thing. If you extend your nightly sleeps, say over 10 hours – it impacts on your waking function and mightn’t be too beneficial.
So, how what does that mean for YOU?
Use these little steps to find the magic number…
– Keep a diary of your sleep, include bedtime, waketime and how you felt during the day.
– Go to bed when you feed tired, listen to your body.
– If you can, don’t use an alarm clock – let your body wake up naturally and see how it goes.
– Cut out caffeine or stimulants for a few days, see if it affects you.
– Make sure you get out in the sun and about and clock 8,000 (ideally 10,000) steps each day.
If you do the above for a week or two, you should have a pretty good idea on what your body needs. Keep in mind, it can change quite quickly in periods of stress, sickness or change.