How Much Sleep Do I Need? (+ 5 Tips To Improve Sleep Quality)
Written by: Lauren Villa - Aug. 12, 2019
Have you ever heard someone bragging about how they only got three hours of sleep? And miraculously they still function like a superhuman? If you’re like me, it can leave you wondering, “so…how much sleep do I need to thrive?” The answer is, it depends on your age—and we’ll get into the age breakdown later.
There can be this notion that in order to be productive we have to skimp on sleep and work more. The irony is that without proper sleep, we aren’t nearly as productive as we would want to be. Why? Because we aren’t robots! The bottom line is that when you sleep better you live better.
Your mind and body need time to restore and prepare for a new day. Turn off the electronics, shut your eyes, and discover the power of sleep. 💤💙
In this article, we’ll discuss the five stages of sleep and how they affect you, general sleep recommendations, and five tips to ensure you get the Zzzs you deserve.
The 5 Stages Of Sleep
Want to know something cool? There is a science to sleep. Sleeping is not a passive activity, it’s actually a process that resets the body and brain. It’s vital to your physical health, as well as your mental health. 🛌 Understanding how the first four phases ultimately transition to the fifth phase, rapid-eye-movement sleep, known as REM, will help you understand how complex and vital the process of sleep truly is. If you skimp on sleep, you miss out on the full range of restorative benefits that sleep offers.
What actually happens when you sleep? Your body moves in between two types of sleep: non-REM sleep and REM.
The first part of the cycle is called non-REM sleep, and it includes four stages:
- First stage: During this stage, you fall into a sleep state between being awake and falling asleep.
- Second stage: During the second stage, your heart rate and breathing regulate and your body temperature drops.
- Third and fourth stage: This is the deeper stage of sleep, and is sometimes referred to as “delta” sleep.
After the first 90 minutes of non-REM sleep, your body transitions into REM sleep. During REM sleep, your eyes move rapidly behind closed eyelids and your brain wave activity becomes similar to what you experience when you are awake. When you’re in REM, your breathing rate, blood pressure, and heart rate increases. This is when you have the majority of your vivid dreams.
You cycle through five phases of sleep several times throughout the night. With each new cycle, your body spends less time in non-REM sleep and more time in REM.
Do you ever wake up from a dream and you feel like you can still remember what happened? You were likely in REM sleep! 😴
How Much Sleep Do I Need?
Most people wonder, how much sleep do I need? The answer is, it varies. We spend one-third of our lives sleeping and it’s a vital function of our development. Children need more sleep than adults, and newborns need the most sleep of all.
If you aren’t getting enough sleep, it can manifest into some pretty serious health conditions. If you’re trying to live a healthier life, give yourself the gift of sleep. If you don’t sleep enough, your health risks increase. Even missing one good night’s sleep can throw you off balance.
Below are some of the chronic diseases that can develop as a result of poor sleep.
- Type 2 diabetes: Research shows that diabetes may cause sleep disorders and sleep disorders can complicate a diabetic condition. In addition, poor quality of sleep can increase a person’s Hemoglobin A1c levels, a blood sugar marker.
- Obesity: Among all age groups, there is an association between not getting enough sleep and obesity, but it’s strongest among children. If you have little ones, read below for tips on how to create a healthy sleep schedule.
- Depression: There’s a strong relationship between sleep and depression. One of the most common symptoms of depression is having trouble sleeping. In fact, depression and trouble sleeping are so closely related that studies show that once sleep improves, depressive symptoms may decrease.
- Cardiovascular disease: People who experience sleep conditions like sleep apnea have an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Sleep disorders place them at a greater risk of serious cardiovascular conditions like stroke, hypertension, irregular heartbeats, and coronary heart disease.
General Sleep Recommendations
Did you know that humans are the only mammals that consciously deprive themselves of sleep? Lions and tigers sleep for 15 hours a day! Dolphins sleep with half of their brain, meaning that one side stays awake while the other side is sleeping. So, how much sleep do we really need?
There isn’t a magic number that works for everyone. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the recommended sleep level varies by age:
Although the number of hours you sleep is important, the quality of sleep is equally as important. Luckily, there are ways to ensure that your sleep is top-notch and you feel fully rested when you open up those beautiful eyes of yours! Getting a healthy night’s sleep is vital to the health of your body and mind.
5 Tips To Improve Sleep Quality
Beautify your nightly routine with these five tips and transform your sleep routine to “sleep hygiene. What’s sleep hygiene? It’s practicing good sleep habits. Just like you brush your teeth, wash your hair, and clean your clothes… you should also be taking care of your sleep routine.
Tip 1: Create a schedule and stick to it!
It can be easy to get wrapped up in running around and not making time for bed. But, your body enjoys a set routine. Remember bedtime? You took a bath, put on those cozy PJs, got into bed and read a book until it was time for bed. You’re an adult now, so guess what? You get to create your own bedtime! Seven-year-old you would have loved that! When you go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, you’ll put your body into a rhythm that it can easily stick to. If you don’t have a predictable schedule (AKA you work a shift job), try your best to go to bed at the same time, even if it’s not every night.
Tip 2: Exercise 20 to 30 minutes a day
Getting exercise is important to any healthy lifestyle change, but especially for good sleep hygiene. Try to avoid doing intensive exercise for at least an hour before bedtime, since it may take you longer to fall asleep.
Tip 3: Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine before bed
This may seem like common sense, but it’s worth remembering: Alcohol, caffeine, stimulants, and sedatives can disrupt your sleep cycle. We’re willing to bet you know a friend (or you are that person) who likes to wind down from work with a glass of wine. But, did you know that drinking close to bedtime can interrupt your Zzz’s? According to the Sleep Health Foundation, avoid alcohol and caffeine for at least 4 hours before bed. As for cigarettes, nicotine is a stimulant and it can make it even harder to fall asleep if you smoke before bed or during the night. Instead of turning to stimulants, relax your nervous system by pouring yourself a hot cup of SkinnyFit ZzzTox tea. Not only will it help you fall asleep and reach a more restful sleep, but it also helps fight toxins and uncomfortable bloating from the day!
RELATED: Top 7 Best Teas To Drink Before Bed
Tip 4: Relax your mind and body before bed
Do you ever find yourself trying to go to sleep and your mind starts racing about what you didn’t get done that day or what you need to do tomorrow? The good news is that there are ways to calm your busy mind so you can start counting sheep in peace. Try relaxing before bed with a warm bath or a light yoga routine. If you find yourself laying in bed with your thoughts still racing, try reading a book until you fall asleep or jotting down a to-do list for the next day. Once your thoughts are written on paper, you’ll have an easier time erasing them from your mind. Other strategies could be listening to music or white noise, or taking deep, mindful breaths. As you slow down your breath, you’ll signal to your body that it’s time to rest.
Tip 5: Create a room designed for only two things: sleep and getting down!
Our phones and computers emit a blue light that suppresses the body’s secretion of melatonin, a hormone that helps signal to your body when it’s time to sleep and wake up. This confuses your body and makes it harder to fall asleep. For a restful night, challenge yourself to remove all electronics from your room. Yes, you will survive without a computer, TV, or phone in your room—I promise! If you need to set an alarm, try putting your phone outside your door. Not only will it force you to get out of bed and not hit the snooze button, but it will also prevent you from checking Instagram when you first open your eyelids.
There is a fascination, if not celebration, in our culture with being “busy.” Combined with the importance placed on technology, it’s no wonder people pride themselves on being available 24/7 and insist on sleeping with their phones. One survey found that adults were more willing to live without sex than to sleep without their smartphones. 😱
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: 8 Ways Self-Care Can Boost Sexual Confidence (& Spice Up Your Sex Life)
The Bottom Line On Getting Quality Sleep
As humans, we’ve evolved from a sleep cycle dominated by the natural rising and setting of the sun, to a schedule that functions around the clock (think about it…you can order an Uber any time of the day 🤔), it’s often tempting to sacrifice sleep to pick up an extra shift, study late, or binge-watch your new favorite Netflix show in your bed. But, if you’re interested in improving your health, mood, and concentration, you can make some super-easy changes to your sleep hygiene to help you get the best sleep possible.
If you improve all of these things and continue having problems sleeping, make an appointment with your doctor! It’s possible that you could have a sleep disorder that can be treated. The sooner you can diagnose your condition, the sooner you can start feeling your best!