1. How much sleep should I get?
- 12 – 18 years (8-9 hours)
- 19 – 65 years (7-8 hours)
- 65 + years (7-8 hours)
Sleep researchers say only a few people require less sleep than the suggested number of hours. The quality of your sleep is as important as the number of hours you sleep.
How do you know if you’re getting enough sleep?
- Do you need caffeine to keep you going all day?
- Do you feel fully alert all day?
- Do you often have trouble concentrating?
- Do you often have trouble remembering important information?
- Do you get tired during the day and want a nap?
- Do you get sleepy in boring meetings?
- Do you often fall asleep watching TV or reading?
- Do you often feel sleepy while driving?
- Do you worry about situations beyond your control?
- Do you frequently have stomachaches or headaches?
- Do you feel down or depressed a lot?
- Do you feel anxious about your future?
2. Can I make up lost sleep?
It is possible to make up sleep if you don’t have too large a sleep debt. It takes 2 hours of weekend sleep to make up for every lost hour during the week. If you really require 7 hours of sleep and are only getting 6 every night, you would need approximately 10 extra hours of sleep every weekend (5 x 2 hours = 10 hours) to make up your sleep debt.
3. Are naps a good way to combat sleep loss?
If you’re not getting enough sleep, then taking a nap may help; however, the best solution is to go to bed earlier to avoid building up a sleep debt. Even an hour earlier is helpful, but if that’s impossible, then a daytime nap can give you an added boost. If you decide to nap, limit your time to 20 or 30 minutes early in the day. Any longer or later and you’re liable to awaken feeling groggy instead of alert.
4. Is too much sleep unhealthy?
Getting enough sleep is never unhealthy. Some people require as many as 9 hours of sleep to feel good. If you use sleep as an escape because you’re feeling depressed or facing too many difficulties in your life, then it can be unhealthy. Over-sleeping can be an important sign for you to seek some professional help.
5. Are sleeping pills safe and effective?
Doctors and sleep experts agree sleeping pills are only a short-term solution to a sleep problem. They work by slowing down the central nervous system. Over-the-counter sleeping pills, such as Nytol, Sominex, and Excedrin PM are not recommended. They are primarily antihistamines, and can make us tired and groggy when we awaken.
Prescribed medications may be helpful for a short while. Ambein, Ativan, Valium, and Zanex are most often used today and provide temporary relief from insomnia and other chronic sleep problems. The down side is they have side effects, are habit forming, and should only be taken for about a month.
6. How should I prepare for a good night’s sleep?
Here are some important guidelines for a good night’s sleep.
- Set a regular sleep schedule for yourself. Go to bed and get up each day at the same time, 7 days a week. Avoid long naps especially late in the day.
- Establish a bedtime ritual. Take a hot bath, read, listen to peaceful music, relax and unwind.
- Separate your work/living space from your sleep place. Avoid working in bed, watching intense TV, or dealing with stressful matters, such as finances, before bedtime.
- Create a good sleep environment. Your room should be quiet and a pleasant temperature. Your pillow and mattress should give you comfortable and adequate support.
- Avoid heavy meals at bedtime or going to bed hungry.
7. Does everybody dream?
Yes, everybody dreams, but we don’t always remember them. Most of our dreaming takes place during REM sleep. When we dream our brain processes information and ideas into learning and memory, solves problems, and works to resolve negative feelings and conflicts to help keep us emotionally balanced.
People who don’t sleep well or spend enough time sleeping suffer negative consequences. When we’re REM sleep deprived for a number of nights, we’re apt to feel more anxious, agitated and irritable, less controlled and unable to concentrate well.
8. How does stress affect my sleep?
Generally, if you have sleep problems, your stress response is being activated by feelings of fear or anxiousness. For example, you or a loved one may be having a health problem, there are difficulties at work, you may be having a relationship problem with family or friends, or you may be having financial difficulties. Your brain senses these anxious feelings that you take to bed with you, it activates the stress response and causes adrenaline to be released into your system, which prevents your natural sleep cycle from working effectively. The stress response and the sleep response are opposite reactions in the body.
9. How do caffeine, nicotine and alcohol affect sleep quality?
Lifestyle habits are important factors affecting sleep quality, and the use of caffeine and nicotine are two major culprits that disrupt sleep. They act as stimulants increasing production of hormones to raise blood pressure, speed up the heart rate and stimulate brain-activity. Caffeine comes in many popular forms: coffee, tea, soda pop, chocolates and in many medications. Nicotine has a similar affect on the body as caffeine. Smokers have difficulty falling asleep, and also staying asleep. They tend to wake up at night craving a smoke, so their sleep is often fragmented. Insomnia ranks near the top of smokers’ complaints.
10. Will lack of sleep affect my job performance?
Sleep loss can affect your job. Researchers investigating the effects of lost sleep on workers’ performance found that often problem-solving skills are impaired, communication skills suffer, learning and memory suffer, and motor skills are impaired. Sleep loss is costing businesses $150 billion a year in higher stress and reduced workplace productivity.