How much sleep do we really need?

Today marks World Sleep Day; recognised around the globe as a day to champion the importance of sleep. To celebrate it this year, the World Sleep Society have chosen the theme Quality Sleep, Sound Mind, Happy World. Make sense, doesn’t it?

From what’s going on in the world to our own personal habits, our slumber can be compromised in many ways by our thoughts and actions, so today is your reminder to prioritise yourself and your sleep.

Here at Octasmart®, we’ve been thinking about the impact sleep has on our health and how much of it we need in order to keep our physical and mental health in good shape.

8 is just a number
We’ve all been told that 8 hours sleep is what we should be getting, right? Not necessarily true. It depends on you as an individual. One of the main reasons we’re told we should be getting 8 hours sleep is because it’s the most common average duration of sleep for the adult population (about 23%), not because it’s a hard and fast rule.

Lots of research has gone into sleep targets, and nowadays most medical authorities give us a range of 7-9 hours.

Sleep differs by age
Sleep needs change with age, especially for the young and old. Generally speaking, infants and children need much more sleep than older age groups, while elderly people need less rest than everyone else. The Sleep Council recommends:

Infants up to 12 months: 14-15 hours per day
Infants aged 1–3 years: 12-14 hours per day
Children aged 3–6 years: 10-12 hours per day
Children aged 7–12 years: 10-11 hours per day
Teenagers aged 12–18 years: 8-10 hours per day
Adults aged 18–65 years: 7-9 hours per day
Adults aged 65+ years: 7-8 hours per day

The reasons for these changes are biological. Infants need the most sleep because their little bodies and minds are developing rapidly, so naturally they demand a lot of rest. On top of this, they’ve not developed body clocks so their sense of night and day is much less defined than older children and adults.

As we move into adulthood, we finish developing and our body clocks are fully established so we settle into a more minimised routine of sleep. We also take on the modern world with all it’s distractions of work, technology, diet, socialising… the list goes on.

As we reach our sixties, we tend to need less sleep and a study by the University of Toronto found it may be because of a loss of neurone function in the brain that regulates sleep patterns.

Under and oversleeping
In an ideal world, everyone would get the optimum amount of sleep, aligned with our age group. But we know it’s not that simple. An unbalanced sleep cycle, whether it’s too little or too much, can disrupt our physical and mental equilibrium.

Sleep gives our body time to rest, recover and repair, and a lack of it can cause major implications on our health. Under-sleeping can disrupt our immune system, making us more susceptible to germs and making it harder to get rid of them. It can also cause fatigue, weight gain, and can put us at risk of major health problems like diabetes and heart disease.

While too little can be harmful, oversleeping comes with its own risks too, including headaches and migraines, muscular problems and back pain, disruption to your body clock, and major health problems similar to those mentioned above.

While it’s important to get the right amount of sleep, it’s also important to remember that everyone is different, and our health needs are individual. Listen to your body, listen to your mind, and do what feels right for you.

Happy Sleep Day, snooze well tonight and every night!

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