What's the Ideal Amount of Sleep? Exploring the Benefits of 8 Hours Versus 6 Hours of Sleep
Sleep is one of the most important functions of the human body. It is vital for rejuvenation of the cells, organs and enhances every part of the system. A big question that people have which needs to be answered conclusively is “What is the best amount of sleep to get each day”? According to National Sleep Foundation guidelines, the ideal sleep time should be between 7 to 9 hours. The guidelines are dependent on individual factors, lifestyle choices and needs of the person.
We shall discuss in detail the best tips for better sleep in order to reap the maximum benefits of sleep. These benefits include and are not limited to enhanced emotional and mental health, stronger immunity as well as greater vitality and creativity.
How the Sleep Process Works
To better understand how to improve sleep quality, it is important to realize the reason why we go to sleep. Sleep is not merely switching off the body for a specific time frame. In fact, it is actually quite the opposite. When a person is fast asleep their biological systems are working in full swing maintaining and repairing itself in anticipation and preparation for the challenging day ahead.
Sleep can be categorized into four different cycles. The sleep cycle commences with non rapid eye movement stage (non-REM). During this stage, the individual eases into sleep with the body’s function slowing down considerably compared to a wakeful state. It is relatively easy to wake up a person during this stage of sleep.
The next stage of the cycle consists of REM (rapid eye movement). The rate of body’s functions slow down further and the brain activity becomes disassociated with physical responses with the assistance of process called sleep spindles. The sleep cycle then proceeds towards the third stage where the body goes into deeper non-REM sleep. The fourth and final stage is known as REM sleep and this is the stage where a person is able to dream freely without any physical responses from the body. Higher levels of optical and brain activity comparable to waking levels are witnessed in this stage.
The Importance of an 8 Hour Sleep Cycle
According to a comprehensive study conducted by Gallup in 2013, 40% of the population in the United States does not get proper sleep on a regular basis. A part of this can be contributed to a number of myths and misperceptions regarding the subject of sleep. In order to maximize sleep benefits, it is important for everyone to understand the importance of consistent sleep timings.
Perhaps the biggest myth surrounding sleep is that compromising on timings of sleep will not affect ones overall productivity. This is especially true for people with demanding schedules that may not receive adequate hours of sleep due to long hours or changes in work schedules. People often ignore reduced sleep time thinking that a day or two would not really matter that much. Unfortunately, it is a completely wrong and dangerous notion of belief.
Duration of sleep of less than 8 hours will adversely affect your mental alertness and ability to think clearly. Mental fog is a consistent side effect resulting from reduced sleep time. Changes in sleep pattern can have disruptive effects on energy levels, emotional well being and ability to manage stress.
A prevalent myth in the society today is overestimating the ability of the body in adjusting to constant fluctuation of sleep schedules. It is an utter fallacy to even think that constant changes in the sleep cycle will have zero impact on productivity and immunity function. The systems even though are flexible but are only able to adjust to a new sleep cycle approximately after a week of passing. A person with an irregular sleep cycle will eventually be googling the phrase “insomnia help”.
Sleeping without any form of a structured sleep schedule is tantamount to playing Russian roulette with your health. The effects will be disastrous and not only impact your health but your quality of life and relationships with people around you as well.
People with demanding schedules often compensate for lack of sleep by sleeping additional hours during weekends. This may seemingly look like a reasonable idea as it does compensate for the weekly sleep debt which may have piled up over the course of the week. In reality, it is an extremely inefficient way to manage your body. Followers of such sleep patterns often report headaches and laziness even after sleeping for periods of 10-12 hours. This may also adversely affect the sleep cycle on the workdays as well.
The recommended way on how to improve sleep quality is ensuring 8 hours is received every single day. This can only be achieved through improvement in sleep hygiene. This includes a pre-sleep routine which needs to be followed in combination to removing sleep barriers.
One of the most amazing benefits of an 8 hour sleep cycle is its impact on metabolism. Monitoring your food/drink intake hours leading up to the designated sleep time is also critical in maintaining a healthy metabolism. Proper sleep leads to secretion of the hormone, leptin which is responsible for regulation of hunger. The midnight cravings which are often experienced before sleeping, is the result of improper secretion of the hormone.
This results in excessive consumption of food at inappropriate times and unnatural increase in weight. In order to stay fit and healthy, relying solely on exercise is not enough. A healthy sleep pattern of 8 hours every day will ensure that your digestive system works in an optimal capacity. One of the best tips for better sleep is preplanning and maintaining a sleep schedule regardless of work or travel commitments.
Stress has become an inevitable part of life due to different constraints and pressures especially for people that have tough work schedules. Stress is a byproduct of the release of the hormone cortisol which is responsible for mediating the stress response. Heightened levels of cortisol can have an adverse impact on cardiovascular health especially in adults. For a longer life and a healthy heart, a daily dose of 8 hours of sleep is necessary. Not only will it improve the overall cardiac health but will also aid in improving mental health as well. Over time, your body becomes better equipped in responding to different degrees of stresses and pressures.
Getting eight hours of sleep everyday provides tremendous health benefits in regards to boosting the immune system and warding off different kinds of diseases and infections. Improved sleep aids in quicker recovery times during periods of sickness. The immune system responds in the most effective manner when the body is allowed the time to restore and repair its vital functions.
The Impact of 6 Hours of Sleep On Your Health
The impact of a 6 hour sleep cycle has shown to have detrimental effects on the health of nine studied sleep groups. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the studied groups which ages ranged from infants to older adults all required a minimum of 7 hours of sleep. The younger the age groups, the higher the number of hours are recommended to get the full restorative benefits of sleep.
The most revealing signs of inadequate sleep schedule are fatigue, reduced physical alertness and frequent yawning. Some common signs of sleep deprivation include increased appetite and lack of motivation to perform. These two signs are generally attributed to mental health factors but in fact closely related to lack of sleep. Reduced sleep patterns impact human relationship with a person displaying irritability throughout the day without realizing the root cause of their behavior.
In addition to signs of sleep deprivation, there are devastating effects lack of proper sleep can cause which can lead to needing medical assistance to help insomnia and other sleep-related issues. Sleep deprivation is usually dismissed as some form of drowsiness or low energy. This is completely misleading and the effects are quite profound in their intensity.
Sleep deprivation can lead to an increased probability of anxiety episodes which may develop into full blown depression. People suffering from sleep deprivation are unable to process emotions appropriately and often times face difficulty in handling stressful situations. Lack of proper sleep slows the brain, which will no longer function in an efficient manner. This has been shown to lead to memory problems and difficulty maintaining concentration on anything for a sustained period of time. Similar to excessive alcohol consumption, driving with sleep deprivation can have lethal consequences since person’s decision making is severely impaired.
Sleep deprivation has destructive effects on the different functions of the body. One of the most prominent effects is decrease in sexual activity due to loss of libido. If constantly ignored, the effects on sexual health may become irreversible over a period of time. Lack of sleep also impacts other vital organs and tissues in the human body.
There is a strong correlation between lack of sleep and development of diabetes, stroke, hypertension and different types of cancers. The reason of occurrence is due to impaired response of the immune system which is denied the opportunity to properly repair, adjust and maintain itself through a sufficient sleep cycle.
How To Create a Proper Sleep Regimen
As mentioned briefly, the most effective tips for better sleep is development and execution of a sustainable sleep hygiene regimen. The key factor in good sleep hygiene lies in strictly following the same sleep schedule. The aim is to develop a biological clock to allow the body to reset important functions such as growth and repair of cells which will be based on timings of the sleep schedule.
Initially, the body will be unfamiliar with the new sleeping schedule. To help with the process, aids such as a sleep mask can be highly effective. These effectively aid in blocking out any artificial light at night which will signal the body that the time for sleep has arrived. Additionally, auditory aids such as white noise, binaural beats or low volume music can help relax the mind and settle it from its normal active waking state to a lower frequency. By focusing on creating an environment which mimics sleep conditions, you will find the process of falling asleep significantly easier.
Exercising regularly is thoroughly recommended in ensuring a healthy body and a proper sleep cycle. Exercise regimens of 30 minutes is sufficient to promote a healthy body and mind. It is however important to note that timings of the exercise must not interfere with your sleep cycle. Exercise has been shown to help insomnia patients by lowering brain wave frequencies resulting lesser symptoms of anxiety and depression. A combination of aerobic and anaerobic exercises is highly recommended for holistic wellness.
Procrastination is one of those buzz words which conjures a negative image whenever we think about it. However, not all forms of procrastination are negative. Problems that may cause great degree of stress should be postponed to a time where the individual is active and most equipped to figure out the solutions. Thinking about stressors before going to sleep is a bad idea and once its become a habit, it can have massive negative consequences on your mental and physical well being. When it comes to ways to improve sleep quality, procrastination can be one your best friends!
Judging by the series of facts presented above, we can safely conclude 8 hours of sleep is an undisputed winner in the debate of how much sleep is the best. In fact, we would say getting eight hours of sleep is mandatory for a healthy life.
Six hours of sleep does not suffice for the body to complete the restorative processes it needs to keep you at your most healthy. When this lack of recovery is compounded over the weeks or months, it results in significant adverse impacts on your mental and physical health. By educating ourselves on the benefits of proper sleep and creating the best possible environment through the use of sleep masks and auditory aids, we can transform our overall health and quality of life.
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