Finding that perfect amount of sleep is critical but difficult. Some people need a full eight hours to function while others are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with only five. Meanwhile, some people need to sleep half the day away in order to feel rejuvenated. Thus, the actual amount of sleep a person requires is highly subjective.
Sleep feels luxurious; however, it is a requirement for health. How long and how well you sleep keeps you emotionally balanced and feeling physically fit. Figuring out how much sleep you need is not as difficult as it sounds. All you need to do is pay attention to and keep track of how your body feels.
Growing Up & Out of Sleep
According to Harvard Medical School, you need the most sleep when you’re younger. Adults only need about half the sleep that children do.
Newborn babies need anywhere from 10.5 to 18 hours of sleep a day to be healthy because they use all that sleep to grow and develop. After three months, they require slightly less sleep (on average 10 to 14 hours). By the time children hit school, they need only an average of 10 hours.
Once you hit 18 years of age, you only need an average of 7.5 to 8.5 hours a sleep per day on average.
Looking for Signs of Tiredness
If you’re not sure how much sleep you’re getting or whether it is enough, follow these guidelines for figuring out your sleep pattern:
Forget Your Bedtime, Check Your Wake Up Time
The average person moves through five sleep cycles each night. Each cycle lasts 90 minutes. This is where scientists get the 7.5 hour figure from. Instead of worrying about hitting that 7.5 hours after you go to bed, look at the time that you wake up.
Pay attention to the time that you wake up naturally in the morning. Whether it is 10 AM or 5 AM, count back 7.5 hours from that figure to determine what time you need to go to bed in order to ensure you get the perfect amount of sleep.
Pay Attention to Your Tired Periods
Think about the periods of the day when you are most tired. Are you tired after waking? Does the tiredness hit after lunch or mid-afternoon? Or are you ready to crash around dinner time?
Any of these are a sign that you are not getting enough sleep. Each of these are cues for sleep that will help you determine if you’re getting enough sleep, if you’re over-tired, or if you are completely sleep deprived.
Keep a Sleep Journal
Tracking how much sleep you get can help boost the level of sleep you get. Use a sleep journal to keep track of your sleep schedule and look at how consistently you get what you think is the right amount of sleep. Nowadays there are even high tech options such as smart-watches and custom wristbands that can do this for you.
Whatever option you choose, the journal will show you where you struggle and succeed when it comes to getting enough sleep. Even minor deviations are important because losing even one hour of sleep can affect your energy and your immune system.
Keeping an eye on your sleep schedule is also important because your body does not adjust as quickly to new sleep schedules as you would like it to. It can take a week to adjust to a new pattern if you have changed time zones or changed shifts at work.
Also note how often you try to “make up” sleep. Some people believe that getting extra sleep can help you make up for a lack of sleep other days. However, it is not the amount of sleep that matters as much as how long you get quality sleep. Simply sleeping more does not fully compensate for a previous lack of sleep. It can also mess with your normal sleep cycle.
Fixing Your Sleeping Habits
After you’ve got more information about your sleep, your strengths and weaknesses will start to become more clear. To fix your sleeping habits and ensure you’re getting enough sleep, you need to make sleep a priority. Rather than focusing on making up sleep, you need to prioritize a natural sleep pattern.
A good way to fix your sleeping pattern is to take a sleep vacation. When you have two weeks free, go to bed at the same time every night and wake up without an alarm. You will notice that you’re sleeping later at first, but you will slowly start waking up at a suitable time all on your own. You’ll probably also find that you’re sleeping somewhere between seven and nine hours.
Remember that sleep is imperative for health. If after all your efforts, you’re still falling asleep during meetings, this may be a sign that there is something wrong with your sleep system. If you’re not sure why you can’t catch enough Zs, check in with a sleep doctor.