Many of us may have wondered from time to time what the ideal length of sleep we should be getting each night. For most healthy adults, official guidelines suggest that ideally we should get at least 7 hours of sleep.
Although this guideline is generally correct, the ideal length of sleep is not the same for everyone and can vary depending on several factors.
Do I Need More or Less than 7 Hours of Sleep?
In our social circle we may have heard from various people that they sleep only 5 hours every night and consider this duration to be sufficient. In contrast, others report that it takes at least 8-9 hours to feel adequately rested.
The factor that can explain the above difference is the quality of sleep, which can be different for each person, due to a number of factors. For example, awakenings during the night are an important factor that can greatly affect the beneficial effects of sleep.
Can Sleep Quality Affect Our Health?
Sleep is one of the most important factors affecting our overall health. Research has shown that people with the worst sleep quality are at increased risk for a number of chronic diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, anxiety, depression, as well as a number of other chronic physical and mental illnesses.
Also, poor sleep quality can cause problems in our daily life, as it is associated with feeling tired and sleepy during the day.
Obviously, sleep habits can be differentiated by a number of factors, including age. As we age, the body’s circadian rhythm can undergo changes, which ultimately affects various body functions, such as the sleep-wake cycle. As a result, sleep duration can be limited, especially in old age.
The production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, can also decrease with age. All of the above changes result in us waking up earlier in the morning or having more awakenings during the night.
Three Simple Approaches to Improve Sleep Quality
Obviously, from all of the above it seems that it is important to improve the quality of sleep as much as possible, as this way we will ensure the greatest benefits for our overall health. But how can we achieve the above goal? Three simple approaches that can improve our sleep are:
- Maintaining a consistent sleep-wake schedule, especially on weekend days
- Limiting sleep intervals during the day to less than 20-30 minutes and never during the 6 hours before sleep at night
- Increasing physical exercise
When it comes to sleep quality, habit is your best ally. The more often we stick to our sleep schedule, the easier it will be to maintain good sleep quality in the long run.
It’s obviously impossible to get the ideal number of hours of sleep each night. It goes without saying that various changes or events that occur in our daily life can affect our sleep the next night. Therefore, if we want to monitor the quality of our sleep in the long term we should look at the overall sleep on a weekly basis.
If you follow all good sleep practices, but still have difficulty getting or staying asleep, contact your doctor as you may be suffering from a sleep disorder. Several conditions, including sleep apnea, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and hypertension, can affect sleep. The same is true with various medications. Your doctor is the only one who can guide you in improving your sleep.
Photo: Meruyert Gonullu