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Last Updated on January 11, 2021

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

How Many Hours of Sleep Do I Need? (What the Science Says)
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“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 July 22, 2021

How to Quit Drinking for a Healthier Body and Mind

How to Quit Drinking for a Healthier Body and Mind
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Has anyone ever suggested that you should cut down on your drinking or, for that matter, quit drinking alcohol out of your life completely? Have you ever felt that way on your own, especially after waking up super late for work with a pounding headache and blurred vision the day after a long night out on the town or getting down in the club?

Let me start by saying that I am not trying to demonize the consumption of adult alcoholic beverages. I’m the last person to judge you or anyone else for making a conscious decision to drink alcohol responsibly. Instead, as a licensed mental health counselor and certified master addiction professional, I have a professional responsibility to help my clients take greater control over their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors by gaining insight into the underlying issues that have negatively impacted their lives.

Is Drinking Alcohol a Problem for You?

First things first. Is drinking alcohol a problem for you? Since alcohol has been known to impair your judgment, you may not even realize that it is.

According to the 5th Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or more commonly referred to as the DSM-5, the universal reference guide used by mental health and addiction professionals to diagnose all substance abuse and mental health disorders, alcohol use disorder is defined as a “problematic pattern of alcohol use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress.”

It is manifested by experiencing at least two of the following symptoms within a 12-month period:[1]

  1. Alcohol consumed in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended
  2. Persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control the use of alcohol
  3. A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain, use, or recover from the effects of alcohol.
  4. Craving or a strong desire or urge to use alcohol
  5. Recurrent alcohol use results in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, and home.
  6. Continued alcohol use despite persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused by or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol
  7. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced.
  8. Recurrent alcohol use in physically hazardous situations
  9. Alcohol use is continued despite the knowledge of having persistent or hazardous physical or psychological problems likely caused by alcohol.
  10. Tolerance is present in which there is a need for markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication.
  11. Withdrawal, as evidenced by experiencing any combination of both physical and psychological discomfort following cessation after a period of heavy or prolonged alcohol use.

Nevertheless, just because you may not meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder, does not mean that you should not quit drinking alcohol. Although you may appear to be able to handle your alcohol on the outside, excessive alcohol use has been shown to negatively impact your overall health. Just like nicotine, alcohol is a habit-forming drug.

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However, unlike the stimulant properties found within nicotine, alcohol is classified as a depressant. It essentially slows down your central nervous system’s ability to effectively process feelings, emotions, and information.

With your defenses down, alcohol can make you feel more emotionally sensitive, sad, vulnerable, and depressed—for example, with regard to bringing back feelings associated with past traumas that you may have worked hard to overcome, or perhaps those in which you may have never had the time to properly address at all.

A study published by the National Institute for Health showed that alcoholics were somewhere between 60 and 120 times more likely to complete suicide than those free from psychiatric illness.[2]  Additionally, although having a couple of cocktails may make it easier for you to talk to a stranger as it lowers your inhibitions, it can also negatively impact your judgment—for example, by drinking and driving.

Additionally, alcohol has been known to make people more argumentative and belligerent, especially when they are confronted about the issue. A study published by the World Health Organization estimates that approximately 55% of domestic violence perpetrators were drinking alcohol prior to the assault and that women who were abused were 15 times more likely to abuse alcohol.[3]

When it comes to your physical health, there is an overabundance of ways in which excessive drinking is bad for your body. Since alcohol provides little or no nutritional value and is often combined with high-calorie mixers, it can lead to obesity.

People who drink alcohol in excess are generally less physically active, thereby increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.[4] Additionally, excessive drinking inflames the pancreas, making it more difficult for it to secrete insulin, thereby contributing to diabetes.

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Furthermore, excessive alcohol use can lead to liver damage, such as cirrhosis, in which the body is unable to properly remove waste products from the blood leaving the stomach and intestines. As a result, people with cirrhosis of the liver may appear jaundiced, swollen, and confused. A recent study published by Forbes indicated that even moderate drinking tracked with decreases in both grey and white brain matter, essentially interfering with brain functioning as it alters the brain’s chemistry and composition.[5]

With all of that being said, if you feel that alcohol use may be getting in the way of being able to maintain a healthy lifestyle, I recommend that you take a moment to consider these six simple ways to quit drinking alcohol to achieve a healthier mind, body, and soul.

1. Stay Away From the Bottle

If you happen to be a recreational drinker—someone who has a couple of drinks here and there, every so often or once in a blue moon—and you want to quit drinking alcohol altogether, the easiest way to quit drinking alcohol is just to stay as far away from it as possible. I mean it’s really that simple, isn’t it? Not so fast! Alcohol is everywhere, from the supermarket to the soccer field.

Even with all of the potential risks, people continue to drink alcohol at any number of social gatherings, business meetings, and even religious ceremonies, activities that are in many cases almost impossible to avoid completely. Sporting events, for example, all seem to be sponsored by sleek, sexy, and, at the same time, remarkably socially conscious breweries.

Nevertheless, although alcohol is everywhere, the next time you go out with your friends to your favorite hotspot, try ordering tonic water with lime, or perhaps even the virgin version of your favorite cocktail instead—like a pina colada or strawberry daiquiri—so you can keep the umbrella and just get rid of the rum.

2. Set Expectations With Others

Unless you are prepared to cut ties with all of your friends and family members who like to drink alcohol, be prepared to set certain expectations with them when it comes to drinking when you are around them.

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First, let them know that you are not judging them but rather, making a personal choice not to drink alcohol. Then, set clear boundaries with them by letting them know whether or not you are comfortable being around them when they choose to drink. Remember, you are the most powerful gatekeeper of everyone and everything that surrounds you.

3. Own Your Issues!

The first step to quitting alcohol—or quitting the use of any habit-forming mood-altering substance for that matter—is to first admit that you have a problem with it, whatever the problem may be. I suggest that you first start by identifying how alcohol has either already affected your life, or how it could do so in the future if you continue to drink.

Take a personal inventory of everything important to you, such as your relationship with your family and your faith, as well as the condition of your health and your personal finances. Then, carefully consider how alcohol could be negatively impacting each item. Set aside some personal quality time to journal all of your thoughts in black and white to help you see the situation from a more objective point of view. Take it from me, it’s not easy to admit that you have a problem, but once you do, it can be a very liberating feeling.

4. Ask for Help

Once you have admitted to yourself that you have a problem with alcohol, you can then admit it to someone else, preferably someone who can help you process your feelings and concerns in a safe, constructive, and non-judgmental way.

Although family and friends may be very supportive, you may want to work with a therapist who can offer a more objective perspective along with a variety of tools to not only help you stay sober but also process and ultimately work through any underlying issues that may have caused you to drink in the first place.

Furthermore, in the unfortunate event that you have become physically dependent on alcohol to make it through the day, medical supervision may be needed to help you manage any combination of withdrawal symptoms, including restlessness, anxiety, chills, nausea, and even potentially life-threatening seizures.

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5. Join a Support Group

When you are trying to defend yourself against a cunning, baffling, and powerful opponent, there is usually strength in numbers. Beyond reaching out for professional help to address any underlying issues that may be holding you or anyone else back from staying sober, joining a support group is an excellent way to strengthen your foundation for recovery from alcoholism.

Although caring friends and family may be able to provide you with unconditional love, members of your support group may also be able to offer a much more objective step-building approach for long-term sobriety. Fortunately, there are support group meetings available all over the world, you just have to look for one that meets your needs.

6. Make a Commitment to Stay Sober

After you have owned your issues and learned the tools to stay sober, the next step is to commit yourself to actually staying sober. Breaking a bad habit does not usually happen overnight. Typically, it’s a process that requires time and tenacity. There is no exception when it comes to quitting alcohol.

Nevertheless, many people find themselves frantically trying to stop drinking after any combination of unfortunate, uncomfortable, and sometimes unforgiving events, such as being fired from a job, having an argument with a loved one, getting caught driving under the influence, and experiencing medical complications associated with alcohol use, such as liver failure.

Final Thoughts

In the end, If you truly want to quit drinking, make an open and honest commitment to yourself that you will not only put away the bottle but that you will also take out the tools every day to stay mentally, physically, and spiritually sober.

More on How to Quit Drinking

Featured photo credit: Zach Kadolph via unsplash.com

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Reference

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