How many hours of sleep do you need a night? The answer isn’t as simple as it seems! Sleep impacts both your mental and physical health, making sleep crucial to achieving your goals. In order to maximize benefits, you need to strike a healthy balance between too much and too little sleep. As I said in Chapter 7, “Striking a Balance,” of my book, Dream Big!: How to Reach for Your Stars, “[T]o find your balance and reach for your dream, make sure you get enough sleep!”
Every person needs a different amount of sleep depending on their age, health, and other personal factors. However, science has shown that there is an ideal number of hours everyone should aim for in order to optimize the benefits of a good night’s sleep. Keep reading to learn more about the golden amount of sleep you need each night, and our tips for making your sleep count!
Why Sleep is Essential
Sleep is one of the most important things we do! Research has shown that getting the right amount of quality sleep can lead to numerous benefits for both physical and mental health. When we’re feeling our best, we will act our best, and we’ll ultimately have more successful outcomes!
Effect on Physical Health
Very often, we don’t realize the effect sleep has on our bodies because it all happens while we are unconscious! However, science has proven that there is a significant connection between sleep and our physical health. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society, getting less than seven hours of sleep per night can lead to weight gain, hypertension, and an increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. This has to do with the fact that the less we sleep, the more a hormone called ghrelin is produced. This hormone promotes hunger and increases food intake. Having more ghrelin can lead to obesity, which in turn spurs other health issues.
If less sleep causes these severe issues, more sleep will do the opposite! Remember, though, that getting too much sleep isn’t a good thing either. Too many hours will leave you fatigued throughout the day. Instead, you need to find a healthy balance. Striking the right balance of sleep will help you stay physically healthy so that you can continue working towards your dreams!
Effect on Mental Health
Getting insufficient sleep also has a negative impact on our mental health. Research has shown there is a strong connection between lack of sleep and depression as well as poor concentration, productivity, and performance. A 2004 study even found that medical interns made more significant mistakes when they worked longer shifts that impacted their sleep as opposed to when they worked shorter ones. Similarly, a 2011 study found that high school students who slept less than 7 hours on both weekdays and weekends had a worse academic performance than their peers who had the recommended amount of sleep.
These negative effects on our mental health combined with the negative effects on our physical health make it clear that getting more sleep is essential for success! Now, we must determine how many hours of sleep you really need to reap the full effects of a good night’s rest.
The Golden Amount of Sleep
So…what exactly is the golden amount of sleep you need? The answer isn’t as simple as it seems. Using averages, generalizations can be made, but every person is different, and many aspects of our lives need to be taken into consideration. While there may not be one perfect number, having a well-rounded understanding of our needs will lead us to a goal amount of hours to aim for.
Hours Based on Your Age
The most common way people determine how much sleep they need is through age. It is typically easy to generalize off of age, making it a great baseline. Check out these suggestions from the National Sleep Foundation to find your golden number:
As you can see, there is a wide range here! Age is only a baseline, and these numbers are averages. There are still many other factors and questions you need to consider when determining your golden amount of sleep.
Questions to Consider
To figure out how much sleep you need beyond age, consider these questions. First, think about your health. Do you have a history of sleeping problems? Do you have other health issues? Then, think about your energy levels from your own observations and lived experiences. Are you productive on X hours of sleep? How much energy do you use each day at work or school? In particular, how alert do you have to be at work?
Use your answers to determine whether you need more or less sleep than the suggested hours above. If you need more guidance, I suggest getting in touch with a medical professional for a more personalized consultation. The sooner you figure out that goal number you should be aiming for, the sooner you can start making a sleep schedule and getting the most out of those hours!
Research has found that the quality of sleep you get is actually more important than the number of hours. In one study, the average sleep duration among participants was 7.9 hours (their recommended amount), but 30% of people reported waking up frequently throughout the night and 13% said that they didn’t feel well-rested in the morning. This goes to show that no single number can optimize the amount of sleep we get. We need to focus on the quality of sleep as well.
Focus on Your Habits
To improve the quality of sleep you get, you need to focus on your habits. I recommend setting a sleep schedule and sticking to it (the best you can) everyday. First, figure out how many hours you should be getting. Then, determine what time you need to be up in the morning. From that time, count back how many hours of sleep you need, and you’ve got your bedtime!
If you need help sticking to this sleep schedule, I recommend using the app SleepTown. In this app, you set sleeping goals, and everything you accomplish one, a building is built. See if you can make a whole town!
Make Changes in Your Routine
Maybe you already have a good sleep schedule, but are you getting the most out of it? Oftentimes, the little changes we make in our routines can go a long way and drastically improve the quality of sleep we get. Here are five simple changes you can make in your routine today:
- Disconnect electronic devices before bed
- Monitor and limit your caffeine intake before bed
- Choose a good quality mattress and bedding
- Optimize bedroom temperature
- Find a dark place to sleep
Try one of these things, or try all five! Either way, these changes can help you get the most out of your sleep routine. That way, you’ll wake up in the morning feeling more well-rested and ready to tackle the day!
Go Get a Good Night’s Sleep!
Science has shown how important it is to get a good night’s sleep. When you figure out how many hours you should be getting, you can take steps to optimize your sleep schedule. By doing this, you’ll be boosting your mental and physical health, and that will leave you refreshed and energized to chase after your dream!
If you want to learn even more about developing healthy habits to help you reach your goals, check out my book, Dream Big!: How to Reach for Your Stars. In it, I talk even more about the importance of striking a balance in your life and share tips and activities to help you plan for your dreams!