Sleep is a normal essential part of our lives. Sleep duration is an important issue discussed by many scientists because healthy sleep has vital influence at health indicators. Sleeping is an active period of life – during sleep several important processing, restoration and strengthening occur. Human body needs certain period of sleep for optimal health and well being. One of the vital roles of sleep is to help us solidify and consolidate memories. During day we accumulate huge amount of information which needs to be processed and stored. According to scientists during sleep all information is classified – some info is transferred from weak tentative short-term memory to stronger long-term memory (consolidation process). During day newly received information trigger brain cells to build connections with other parts of the brain, and during sleeping period the important connections are strengthened and not important ones are pruned. Actually the sleep is an opportunity for the brain to be cleared of waste.
Sleep duration is very important because body needs enough time for restoration, rejuvenation, muscles grow, reparation of tissues and synthesis of vital substances (hormones, enzymes). Our mood, energy and health depend on daily sleep duration and quality sleep.
Body regulates sleep duration in similar way as regulates eating, drinking and breathing.
How long we need to sleep? What is the optimal sleep duration?
Several fundamental health institutions are still working to discover the best sleep duration for different groups of people. The latest USA National Sleep Foundation recommendations:
Healthy sleep duration according to National Sleep Foundation (Washington, DC, 2015):
Newborns (0-3 months) – 14-17 hours each day;
Infants (4-11 months) – 12-15 hours each day;
Toddlers (1-2 years) – 11-14 hours each day;
Preschoolers (3-5 years) – 10-13 hours each day;
School age children (6-13years) – 9-11 hours each day;
Teenagers (14-17 years) – 8-10 hours each day;
Younger adults (18-25 years) – 7-9 hours each day;
Adults (26-64 years) – 7-9 hours each day;
Older adults (65+) – 7-8 hours each day.
Age-specific sleep duration is very important for health providers. It should be mentioned that sick people could need longer sleep for recovery.
Healthy sleep duration was already introduced above, but there is also the sleep duration which could trigger several health problems. Here are recommendations:
Not recommended sleep durations:
Newborns (0-3 months) – less than 11 hours and more than 19 hours each day;
Infants (4-11 months) – less than 10 hours and more than 18 hours each day;
Toddlers (1-2 years) – less than 9 hours and more than 16 hours each day;
Preschoolers (3-5 years) – less than 8 hours and more than 14 hours each day;
School age children (6-13years) – less than 7 hours and more than 12 hours each day;
Teenagers (14-17 years) – less than 7 hours and more than 11 hours each day;
Younger adults (18-25 years) – less than 6 hours and more than 11 hours each day;
Adults (26-64 years) – less than 6 hours and more than 10 hours each day;
Older adults (65+) – less than 5 hours and more than 9 hours each day.
All recommendations are based on multi-disciplinary comprehensive studies about sleep and health.
Short sleep duration – sleep deprivation – consequences
- Bad mood, anxiety, negative reactions;
- Accidents at work or during driving;
- Weakened immune system (decreased antibody production, reduced immune responses, increased autoimmune processes);
- Increased cardiovascular risks (cardiovascular disease, stroke or myocardial infarction);
- Increased risks for breast cancer (melatonin deficiency);
- Obesity (disturbed appetite-regulating hormones).
Sleep duration – better sleep – recommendations
- Develop and maintain a regular sleep routine,
- If you are not asleep after 20 minutes, then get out of the bed,
- Schedule all expected stressful or difficult meetings before 6pm,
Buy most comfortable mattress and pillows (adapted to your sleeping habits and positions),
- Keep your bedroom quiet, comfortable, dark and cool,
- Develop special personalized relaxing bedtime ritual,
- Use sleep accessories (if experiencing sleeping problems),
- Develop your personal schedule for naps,
- Exercise regularly,
- Fight after–dinner drowsiness.
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