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I was in London the other week when I noticed an advert for a new product which was supposed to keep you more alert and feeling less tired by allegedly combating the symptoms of fatigue and exhaustion. The strap line for this advertisement was “tired of feeling tired?”. At first I was intrigued, as I often find myself feeling tired, but then I remembered some articles and papers that I had read, which said that in fact less than 8 hours sleep per night, could often be more beneficial than 8 hours or more.
The interesting thing about sleep is that it is not a definite science and can vary drastically from person to person. Getting this right can be the key to both feeling great and getting the most out of your day.
We all assume that the correct number of hours sleep for a human adult should be eight, but there is no actual evidence that says this is the gospel truth or “magic number” and, in fact, quite a lot of evidence seems to suggest otherwise. Studies have shown that optimal sleep time for the average human adult can vary between 5 and 7 hours sleep per night and that anything less than 4 and more than 8.5 can have an impact on the length of your life. Much of what makes up how much sleep a person needs is influenced by their height, weight, diet, lifestyle and genetics. A person who works more than 32.5 hours a week on a regular basis will need more than the average of 6 hours a night. In fact, they are more likely to need between 7 and 9, but this is often compensated for by the body by eating food as a replacement. It’s also been shown that those adults who exercise more throughout the week, when their workload is greater, begin showing reduced symptoms of sleep deprivation.
The number of hours sleep we need changes considerably dependent on our age and circumstances, as demonstrated below:
|Age Bracket||Recommended Sleeping Hours|
|Newborns (0–2 months)||12 to 18 hours|
|Infants (3–11 months)||14 to 15 hours|
|Toddlers (1–3 years)||12 to 14 hours|
|Preschoolers (3–5 years)||11 to 13 hours|
|School-age children (5–10 years)||10 to 11 hours|
|Teens (10–17 years)||8.5 to 9.25 hours|
|Adults, including the elderly||7 to 9 hours|
If you’re a person who finds that the ‘average’ doesn’t work for you, try adjusting your sleeping hours until you find yourself feeling more refreshed in the day. Don’t expect it to be an overnight cure though. How long it takes to be corrected will depend on the amount of ‘sleep debt’ you have accumulated, but keep at it and find the sleeping pattern that works for you.
Take some time to figure out what else might be causing you to lose out on those precious hours, or their benefits, by looking at what else you do during the day. Smoking and drinking coffee as well as skipping or reducing meals are also likely to impact on the benefit of your sleep. How often do you exercise? And what do you do to relax? Why not combine the two and spice up your sex life before bed?
Also, bedroom routines have a noticeable effect on your sleep. The National Sleep Foundation have some excellent tips on how to improve your sleep, and combining these with an altered and regulated sleep pattern could be the way forward to a healthy sleep life.
So! If you’re “tired of feeling tired”, why turn to medicinal ‘sleeping aids’, when less hours, less coffee, less cigarettes, more ‘exercise’ and more rules could work just as well – if not better in the long term? I’ll bet you never thought you’d hear those attributed to your sleep.