Sleep- are you getting enough?

Humans like all animals need sleep along with food, water and oxygen to survive. For humans sleep is a vital indicator of overall health and well-being. We spend up to one-third of our lives asleep and the overall state of our “sleep health” remains an essential question throughout our lifespan. Most of us know that getting a good night’s sleep is important, but too few of us actually make those eight or so hours between the sheets a priority. For many of us with sleep debt we’ve forgotten what “being really, truly rested” feels like. To further complicate matters stimulants like coffee and energy drinks, alarm clocks, and external lights—including those from electronic devices—interfere with our “circadian rhythm” or natural sleep/wake cycle. Sleep needs vary across ages and is especially impacted by lifestyle and health. To determine how much sleep you need it’s important to assess not only where you fall on the "sleep needs spectrum" but also to examine what lifestyle factors are affecting the quality and quantity of your sleep such as work schedules and stress. 

Humans like all animals need sleep along with food, water and oxygen to survive. For humans sleep is a vital indicator of overall health and well-being. We spend up to one-third of our lives asleep and the overall state of our “sleep health” remains an essential question throughout our lifespan. Most of us know that getting a good night’s sleep is important, but too few of us actually make those eight or so hours between the sheets a priority. For many of us with sleep debt we’ve forgotten what “being really, truly rested” feels like. To further complicate matters stimulants like coffee and energy drinks, alarm clocks, and external lights—including those from electronic devices—interfere with our “circadian rhythm” or natural sleep/wake cycle. Sleep needs vary across ages and is especially impacted by lifestyle and health. To determine how much sleep you need it’s important to assess not only where you fall on the "sleep needs spectrum" but also to examine what lifestyle factors are affecting the quality and quantity of your sleep such as work schedules and stress.
 
The US National Sleep Foundation recently updated its guidelines for the suggested amount of sleep we require for optimum brain function at various stages throughout our lives. These guidelines are below. Check to see how you compare:
 
·         Newborns (0-3 months ): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
·         Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
·         Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
·         Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
·         School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
·         Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
·         Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
·         Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
·         Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category) 
 

To get the sleep you need you must look at the big picture. New findings report the important role sleep plays and the brain mechanisms at work as sleep shapes memory, learning, and behaviour. One in five adults shows signs of chronic sleep deprivation making the condition a widespread public health problem. Sleeplessness is related to health issues such as obesity, cardiovascular problems and memory problems. Sleepiness disrupts the coordinated activity of an important network of brain regions and the impaired function of this network is also implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. Sleeplessness plays havoc with communication between the hippocampus, which is vital for memory and loss of less than half a night’s sleep can impair memory and alter the normal behaviour of brain cells. If you feel that you aren’t getting your correct amount of sleep then consider making it a priority as it can have very real effect on your health status.