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Last Updated on January 11, 2021

How Many Hours of Sleep Do I Need? (What the Science Says)

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How Many Hours of Sleep Do I Need? (What the Science Says)

“How many hours of sleep do I need?” This is a commonly asked question.

The subject of sleep and how much of it one needs has been controversial over the last ten years, especially in this digital-obsessed era we’re living in. You might be surprised by what science is now saying about how many hours of sleep you need. However, I’d like to mention, it’s easy not to get enough sleep, especially if our sleep patterns are wacky or out of sorts.

Without a healthy sleep routine, it’s nearly impossible to get those needed hours. I know this because I struggled with insomnia for almost a year. After I evaluated the way I was spending my evenings, I realized that I was only getting five or six hours of sleep, not even. Science says that if you want to wake up revitalized and refreshed, you must focus on how much shut-eye time you’re actually getting.

Understanding Your Circadian Rhythm and Why You Should

The National Sleep Foundation describes the circadian rhythm as:[1]

“the body’s internal clock that cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals.”

Essentially, the clock is in your brain and thrives on a regular sleep pattern. So, if you’re someone who stays up throughout the night, you’re setting yourself up to feel lousy or rundown at certain times the next day.

If you typically have a dip in energy levels in the afternoon, that’s a sign that your circadian rhythm is off. This would explain why at 2:00 or 3:00 P.M., you feel the dreaded down slump and need a caffeine booster. It’s your brain begging you to regulate your sleep pattern (not go out and get more coffee to stay alert).

Once the sun goes down and gets dark outside, our brains, the pineal gland to be specific, begins producing and secreting melatonin. Light exposure, such as from our phones, interrupts this process. Thus, the interruption comes with a consequence. The longer we prolong or intervene in our brain’s natural abilities to prepare us for sleep, the longer our dip in energy during the day lasts. It’s worth it to pay attention to these spurts of energy changes and why they’re occurring.

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Deep Sleep is essential to health and well-being. That’s when your muscles repair, your body replenishes and revitalizes your immune system, keeping it afloat. But we need enough deep sleep. Ensuring that you get the appropriate amount of sleep is essential if you want to prevent illness and maintain wellness.

The Consequences of Limited Hours of Sleep

There are people out there who think that it’s okay to get only five or six hours of sleep or less. Someone actually said to me, “I’m great on six hours; you sleep plenty when you’re dead.”

The thing is, people believe six hours is enough and it’s not. Lack of shut-eye time leads to numerous consequences.

When I dealt with insomnia, I developed some symptoms which I noticed after just two nights of lost hours of sleep. I experienced hair loss, muscle tightness, and my sinuses would swell the skin around my eyes and cheekbones. Others noticed these ailments and overtime they can become chronic issues. Your risk of heart disease will radically increase.

Additionally, I found myself losing energy as early as 12:00 noon and having spurts of energy at different times of the day. Those spurts of energy only lasted under an hour. And those dips would come, and I’d be in the middle of work yearning for a long nap (I abused naps, by the way, and snoozed too long).

Consequently, the naps or lengthy siestas muddled my sleep pattern. You don’t want to nap for too long, though a fifteen-minute nap is quite rejuvenating.

As I stated earlier, our brains thrive on patterns, mostly sleep patterns or a regimen. It is something I now take seriously–having a regimen and hygiene schedule that sets me up for a smooth next day.

How to Develop a Healthy Sleep Regimen

Sleep regimens promote good, strong health. The amount of time you spend planning your days, you should spend the same amount of time preparing for bedtime.

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No matter how busy my schedule becomes, I make the effort to wind down after I’ve had my dinner. Come 7:00 P.M., I’m doing something meditative or meditating. Yoga is another activity I do in the evening. It’s so calming and relaxing.

Since sleep is something that can easily become a problem for me, I try to make the effort to prevent insomnia from rearing its ugly head. We creatives though, can be insomniacs at times. Regardless if you have health problems or not, a bad sleep regimen will very quickly cost your physical and emotional health and in not much time.

By engaging in meditative activities or simply spending an hour doing Yoga is the best way to quiet busy thoughts and ease into the next chapter of your day or night.

Some other things I do in the evening is painting, cleaning or organizing; projects that I don’t get to do during my workday. I like to put my brain to work for at least a half-hour with the goal of tiring me out. I don’t recommend doing overly stimulating things such as sitting on social media or staring at your phone’s screen for too long.

For me, it can be a mental fight to put that darn cell phone down and rest my eyes. Our brains easily mistake the blue light on our screens for sunlight and will confuse the process of secreting melatonin or serotonin. At sundown, our brains are the first to prepare for sleep but how we conduct our lifestyle should be a priority. You must allow a window, maybe an hour in the evening, to decompress and relax.

How To Regulate Your Sleep Schedule

To overcome insomnia or sleep disturbances I had, I focused on maintaining a sleep schedule. Between 10:00 P.M. and 7:00 A.M. is a healthy regulatory sleep pattern. I am an early bird usually and like to rise at 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning.

I find myself going to bed some nights at 9:30-10:00 P.M. and rising at 6:30 A.M. and I feel very refreshed on that schedule. And, I have energy all throughout the day and don’t want to take naps once the 2 or 3 P.M. afternoon arrives. A regular sleep patterns lessens the intensity of those down slump episodes or eliminates them all together.

The energy dips I used to battle with have gone away. On a solid number of hours of sleep, our energy levels don’t fluctuate so much or as drastically.

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I know my circadian rhythm is fully tuned when I wake up in the morning with no alarm. That’s right. I don’t like greeting a morning with an alarm my brain might mistake for a fire truck siren. In fact, science now says alarms are not good for our mental or emotional health.

Why Alarms Are Unhealthy and What to Do If You Need One

A sleep cycle typically lasts ninety minutes. Alarms, if they go off too soon while you’re still in this sleep cycle, can disrupt a natural process which will determine how awake and refreshed you’ll feel upon rising. The price of this is bigger than you may realize.

Interrupting a sleep cycle can leave you feeling groggy all day or as if you’d spent the previous night partying until 4:00 in the morning. I call this a ‘sleep hangover.’

Needless to say, sleep hangovers are unpleasant. It will take your brain and energy levels loads of time to sync up and become regular again. I blamed my issues with fatigue on the alarm, and rightfully so.

These days, I rise naturally and doing so has reduced my fatigue and brain fog. Some mornings, if I have a lot on my plate, I may set an alarm by choosing soft music or positive affirmations. You don’t need to open your eyes to the sound of a voice telling you that you’re awesome, but why not?

If you desperately need an alarm and don’t trust yourself without a wake-up call of some kind, get one that maybe plays soothing music or repeats a meditative mantra of your choosing. Apps on your phone can do this.

If you’re prone to insomnia, I wouldn’t recommend sleeping near an electronic device. Instead, put your phone at the opposite end of your room. That way, when it goes off, you’ll be forced to get out of bed.

How Many Hours of Sleep Should You Get?

The hours of sleep you should get depends on you. Six or seven is no longer enough, and science is now saying to get at least eight or nine. On nine hours, your brain has successfully processed all the sleep cycles necessary for optimal cognitive functioning.

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You must hit all the stages so you don’t feel like a walking zombie the next day. If you’re not with the program, people will notice and lack of sleep can result in declining performance at work.

Lack of sleep also affects how sharp and quick your mind responds to situations in every setting of your life. Memory is also one of those things. In just about every career, we rely on our memory. And let’s be real. A lot of the time, life is a test of how good we are at remembering details of things. The next time you find yourself saying, “It’s all right if I work really late tonight and wake up early the next morning.”

No matter how much you think you’ve got it all together on five or six hours of sleep, keep that up and you’ll find yourself having a lot of costly oopsies throughout your day.

Burnout is more detrimental to your health, career, and overall life than you may realize until something irreversible occurs. You don’t want it to reach that point when you’ve done something you can’t take back because you were exhausted or wiped out.

Bottom Line

Nine hours of sleep is what you should strive for. However, I know how life can interfere. A solid night of sleep can help you manage any stresses life can or maybe is throwing at you.

If you’re anything like me and your mind is constantly buzzing with one thing to the next, create an effective sleep routine–one that promotes a peaceful night of sleep.

And if you’re someone who has to use their cell phone during the night, turn off the blue light and dim that screen. But remember that those nine hours of sleep and the time you spend in the couple of hours beforehand will make or break tomorrow.

Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] The national Sleep Foundation: What is Circadian Rhythm?

More by this author

Tessa Koller

Author, Motivational Public Speaker and Artist

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Last Updated on October 7, 2021

Under the Weather? 13 Immune Boosting Foods for a Quick Recovery

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Under the Weather? 13 Immune Boosting Foods for a Quick Recovery

Immunity truly does encapsulate the entire physiology of a person.

When you target your immunity by eating a variety of immune boosting foods, then you really can improve your entire body, both physically and mentally.

The immune system of a human being involves all aspects of one’s physiology and one’s daily experience. Eating certain foods can boost your health in a variety of ways. Below I outline several foods that will get you back on track if you’re feeling under the weather.

In order to even broach the topic of foods good for one’s immune system, it’s important to consider all aspects of the human body and experience.

What I mean by the human experience is one’s day to day mood, energy levels, and many other factors that signify how one engages with themselves and the world around them.

Before indulging in these foods below, I suggest striving for consistency with diet, activity levels, rest, and incorporating the practice of meditation or spending time in nature as part of your daily routine as well.

If you’re ready to feel better, not just when you’re under the weather but all the time incorporate these foods in your diet regularly.

Be sure to stock up on these foods if you’re in need of a boost.

1. Water is a Wise Choice

Yes I know I’m starting things seemingly simple, but one of my most popular YouTube videos discusses the importance of water!

When I ask people how much water they drink a day, the majority of time the answer begins with ‘not enough’.

So if you know you don’t drink enough water, why continue this pattern of behavior?

Now if you’re one that does hit that 5+ and more (pending activity levels) 8oz glasses a day – good for you! Water is life, and that’s where I’ll leave it.

2. Eggs — The Most Complete Protein

Widely regarded as the universally most complete nutritional protein source, eggs are packed with Omega-3 Fatty Acids and 9 essential amino acids.

Egg whites are rich in Vitamins D/E/K, B2, B5, B6, B12, and minerals such as zinc, iron and copper.

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Meanwhile, egg yolks pack the calories and fats along with cholesterol, fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and lecithin.

It’s important to note that the average medium egg contains 76 calories, 7.5g protein, 5.1g fat, 1.4g sat fat – so consider this while integrating this near perfect super food in your next dish!

3. Raw Spinach Supports Immunity

This leafy green is a personal favorite of mine due to its versatility and great taste!

Spinach is loaded with vitamin C which helps fight cold, flu, and reinforce the immune system.

It’s also quite high in antioxidants and beta-carotene, which supports our immune system in fighting infection and viruses.

When enjoying this plentiful plant, do so raw. Its nutrients are best absorbed when the vegetable is raw; consider adding spinach as a fresh salad, rather than to a cooked dish, to reap the most immune system rewards.

4. Turmerics Benefit on T-Cells

Gaining popularity for its delicious taste, this powerful spice is also gaining notoriety for its anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin (which also creates the vibrant orange-yellow color).

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Immunology notes that curcumin activates the production of T-cells, which are of the primary cells fighting on behalf of your systems immunity. [1]

5. Garlic is Really Good for You

This popular food not only tastes great but packs quite a punch.

Garlic contains a compound called allicin, which boasts a variety of medicinal properties. Garlic is also not very calorie dense; 1 ounce yields about 42 calories with 1.8g protein and 9g carbs.

Garlic also boasts Vitamin C, B6, Fiber, and Manganese.

The properties mentioned above helps maintain healthy bones, prevent diabetes and epileptic seizures, regulate thyroid, combat osteoporosis, reduce inflammation, boost metabolism, improve cognitive function, and regulate glucose metabolism!

So, forget about garlic breath–eat this food in abundance!

6. Wild Salmon is Wonderful

A personal favorite of mine, wild Alaskan salmon is one of those super foods that covers all your nutrient bases!

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Salmon can be cooked a variety of delicious ways, and yields some of the highest immune system boosting benefits.

Salmon contains fish oil Omega-3’s, which protect against developing heart disease and heart attack. Oils contained within such fish are quite unique in that they have Omega-3 fatty acids that are not present in any other food.

Also consider that wild salmon contains (per 4oz) 128% Vitamin D, 95% Vitamin B12, 94% tryptophan, 62% selenium, 53% protein, 53% omega 3’s, 45% Vitamin B3, 37% phosphorus, 32% Vitamin B6, 19% choline, 14% potassium, and 8%(157) calories.

This is one of those super foods that you could stand to have in your diet several times per week. Beyond the incredible taste, its nutritional benefits make it well worth seeking out.

7. Essential Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Many home cooks consider this an essential ingredient in preparing dinner. But it’s also quite good for you!

Extra virgin olive oil is widely regarded as being a healthy addition to any kitchen, with modest amounts of Vitamins E and K and plenty of beneficial fatty acids.

Per 100g of olive oil you can expect 14% saturated fat, 73% Monounsaturated fat, 10% Omega-6, 1% Omega-3, 72%, and 75% Vitamin K.

It also boasts an impressive antioxidant profile. This includes the anti-inflammatory oleocanthal, as well as oleuropein, a substance that protects LDL cholesterol from oxidation.

8. Natural Greek Yogurt Has Many Benefits

When I talk about natural Greek yogurt, I mean the type that is not flavored in any way. Those added sugars won’t help boost immunity.

Many people have convoluted the immunity and health benefits of natural yogurt with the all too popular sugary treats that flood grocery stores. But it’s the plain stuff that’s the best to include in your diet.

Natural Greek yogurt not only goes great with many dishes, but it contains vast amounts of protein which will leave you feeling satisfied.

The reason why I’ve specified ‘Greek yogurt’ is because one cup of plain, low-fat conventional yogurt typically has 5 to 10 grams of protein, where Greek yogurt averages about 13 to 20 grams of protein.

Greek yogurt also contains essential probiotics (live microorganisms). These are bacteria microbes that help improve digestive function, the immune system, and overall gut health.

Add natural Greek yogurt to your diet, whether as a breakfast food, a substitute for sour cream, or as an addition to a healthy smoothie.

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9. Ginseng Tea — Chock Full of Ginsenosides

Ginseng tea’s primary health benefits are due to the naturally occurring chemicals called ginsenosides present in the root.

One of ginseng’s most widely understood benefits include it’s rich anti-cancer properties. [2]

Studies also indicate that people who drink ginseng tea have a lower risk of developing cancer.

Ginseng tea can also help relieve menstrual cramps, lower blood pressure, and improve brain function; and it has also been shown to help with sexual (erectile) dysfunction in men.

10. Green Tea Fights Aging

Just as powerful as ginseng tea, this extremely popular tea is rich in polyphenols that have effects like reducing inflammation and aiding in the fight against cancer.

Green tea is in fact 30% polyphenols, including large amounts of a catechin called EGCG. Catechins are natural antioxidants that aid in the prevention of cell damage and provide several other benefits.

EGCG, and substances like it can reduce the formation of free radicals in the body, helping protect cells and molecules from damage.

Free radicals such as these are commonly known to play a role in aging and all sorts of other diseases.

This wonderful also tea contains small quantities of minerals that are important for overall health, so it may be worth picking up some green tea when visiting your next local tea shop.

11. Dark Chocolate — The Delicious Superfood

Don’t get too excited with this one – everything in moderation, of course!

And I’m not just referring to any chocolate — I’m talking specifically about dark chocolate and cacoa nibs, which are both immune system boosting super foods.

We’ve already covered free radicals in this article, and dark chocolate is one of those wonderful super foods that helps fight against such free radicals.

It does this with its high antioxidant profile which is believed to neutralize free radicals and protect the body from their damage.

Dark chocolate’s antioxidants include vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals – helpful plant compounds. Much like other immune boosting foods on this list dark chocolate will also help balance cholesterol, blood pressure, and improve heart health, and cognitive function.

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You now have a healthy excuse to eat some dark chocolate; but, go for the lowest sugar and highest cocoa content varieties you can find to reap the most rewards.

12. Frozen Blueberries for All!

Personally I love adding frozen blueberries to smoothies; however, sometimes I’ll pop over to the freezer just to grab a small handful as a treat!

Frozen blueberries are loaded with antioxidants, which come from compounds called anthocyanins; these give blueberries their purple hue.

One really neat fact about the ice crystals that form when the berries are frozen is that they disrupt the structure of the plant tissue and make anthocyanins even more available – how cool is that? Talk about hacking blueberries!

Even if not frozen, blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant capacities among all fruits. They have been known to boost memory, cardiovascular system, and eyesight. The fruit also encourages a process called authophagy, or ‘cell clean-up’.

Berries in general (raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries) are extremely high on the ORAC scale. This means they contain some of the highest levels of antioxidants, which help to fight free radicals.

Frozen blueberries in particular may aid in defending colds and flu, as they are high in pterostilbene.

Next time you visit your local grocery store, consider how ideal blueberries are for your immune system and general health.

13. Raw Honey — A Natural Antioxidant

Saving the sweetest for last!

Pure natural raw honey follows the rest of this super food list with its antioxidant profile, however it also contains antibacterial and anti fungal properties.

Raw honey contains antioxidants called phenolic compounds, and certain types contain just as many antioxidants as fruits and vegetables.

Raw honey can help the body kill-off unwanted bacteria and fungus as it naturally contains hydrogen peroxide, which is a strong antiseptic. Raw honey also contains phytonutrients, commonly found in plants, which provides both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Aside from these wonderful benefits, raw honey can also aid with digestive issues, however this typically varies person to person.

Indulge in Better Health

But also, don’t forget to rest! When considering one’s overall health, it’s important to not only incorporate these immune boosting foods, but also to ensure adequate sleep, and take efforts to reduce stress.

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Eating these immunity boosting foods will enable you to take back control of your health and prevent illness… all while satisfying your cravings!

Featured photo credit: Joanna Kosinska via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Journal of Immunology: Curcumin
[2] NCBI: Ginseng for Fatigue

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