The World Health Organization (WHO), the renowned global authority on health, has put out an urgent call to action given the risks associated with insufficient and poor-quality sleep being experienced on a widespread scale. They assert that making sleep a priority is an absolute necessity that provides the foundation for our physical body, mental sharpness, and emotional wellbeing to fully restore themselves. Without enough quality restorative sleep, we open ourselves up to a cascading array of health issues, including increased risk for digestive troubles, weight gain, loss of focus, decreased immunity, irritability, and more.
Understanding Your Personal Sleep Needs
So exactly how many hours should you be striving for when it comes to your nightly sleep schedule? Well, it depends greatly on specific factors like your age, genetics, health status, and natural chronotype. According to WHO guidelines informed by an array of sleep science research, the recommended amount of shuteye needed varies based on life stage:
Newborn Infants: The Early Years:
For new parents, prepare to forego sleep entirely, as newborns require nearly round-the-clock care and feeding. Newborns need a total of 16–18 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period, which will be broken up into shorter sleep cycles consisting of both nighttime sleep and naps. As babies transition into infancy between 3 and 11 months, their total sleep needs decrease slightly to 14 and 15 hours. Their sleep starts to consolidate into longer nighttime stretches.
The Preschool Years:
Toddlers and young children still need plenty of sleep, coming in at 11–12 hours on average. At this stage, napping starts to decrease significantly by age 3 for most children. Disrupted sleep due to night waking or room sharing is common.
Big Kid Status: Grade School:
Once children transition into elementary school, academic demands intensify while sleep needs do not yet decline by much. WHO recommends school-aged children continue getting at least 10 hours of nighttime sleep. By age 5, daytime napping has typically phased out completely. In addition, you can also read an article on- How to Lose Weight at the End of the Year
The Peak of Sleep Deprivation? Teen Years
Perhaps the most sleep-deprived demographic lies in the adolescent and teen years. WHO guidelines indicate that teenagers need 9–10 hours each night for optimal health, focus, and growth. However, for myriad reasons, including puberty-induced shifts to natural circadian rhythms, heavy academic loads, and overexposure to electronic devices, a majority of teens struggle with some level of sleep deprivation.
Adults: Midlife and Beyond
Most adults require 7-8 hours per night of sleep on a regular basis to operate at peak mental and metabolic efficiency while also supporting longevity. As we transition into midlife and our senior years, average sleep needs do decrease slightly. However, sleep disorders like insomnia and sleep apnea increase in prevalence with age. Prioritizing healthy sleep hygiene is essential throughout adulthood.
Homing in on Your Optimal Bedtime
Sleep specialists suggest that between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. is the prime target window to start preparing for bed by actively winding down. This timing aligns beautifully with research performed by Brigham Women’s Hospital that pins our innate human circadian rhythm cycles with peak activation around 9 a.m., which then starts declining rather rapidly around 10 p.m. Forcing sleep past 11 p.m. can backfire, as cortisol production may still be moderately high, making it extra difficult to deeply unwind both physically and mentally.
Essential Steps to Achieve Restorative Slumber
If you chronically find yourself spending hours stuck in bed tossing, turning, and staring at the clock, there is hope. Start by identifying any potential underlying causes of your sleep disruptions, like stress or pain. Next, try implementing some of these science-backed techniques shown to pave the way for higher sleep quantity and quality:
Optimize the Sleep Environment
Where you sleep matters immensely. Be sure to eliminate excess light and noise in the bedroom during sleeping hours. Keep the thermostat set between 60 and 75 degrees F, which facilitates thermal regulation. Invest in a high-quality mattress and bedding designed to properly support your body type and sleep position. Additionally, you can also read about- What is Chroming – Health Impact And Strategies to Prevent!
Cultivate Pre-bedtime Rituals
In the 90 minutes before bedtime, transition into a relaxing routine that primes your body and mind for rest. Dim the lights, take a warm bath or shower, sip herbal tea, practice gentle yoga poses, meditate, or read fiction. These rituals boost melatonin.
Adhere to Consistent Sleep Schedules
On both weeknights and weekends, commit to going to bed and waking up at the same times. Our sleep-wake cycles thrive on regularity, which strengthens circadian clock regulation. Even a 30- to 60-minute variation can negatively impact sleep quality.
Avoid Pre-bed Stimulants
In the later evening hours, refrain from ingesting caffeinated drinks, large meals, alcohol, or stimulating medications close to bedtime. This fuels alertness rather than sleepiness. Nicotine and rigorous late-night exercise are also too activating.
Unplug from Electronics
Power down televisions, mobile devices, laptops, tablets, and other electronics at least one hour prior to going to sleep. Their artificial blue light exposure suppresses natural melatonin production while overstimulating the mind.
Refrain From Clock-Watching
Clock watching and stressing over sleeplessness create a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you have difficulty falling asleep within 20 minutes or wake up in the night, get out of bed. Return only when sleepy. This disrupts mental sleep performance and causes anxiety.
Stick To Bedroom Sleeping
Reserve the bed for primarily sleeping and intimacy. By avoiding other activities like work, reading, and TV viewing, your mind will associate the bedroom with sleep cues rather than wake cues.
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Consider a Brief Nap
If adequately tired, a short power nap of 10–20 minutes before 3 p.m. may provide an energy boost without hindering nighttime rest. Any longer daytime naps or napping too close to bedtime can exacerbate insomnia.
Commit to Sleep Training
Formally practicing healthy sleep behaviors for 2–3 weeks can yield huge dividends. Over time, the ritualization builds an unbreakable sleep drive and efficiency. Make sleep a pillar of your self-care regimen.