How much sleep is enough? Is sleeping overrated? Is it better to be a night owl or an early bird? Keep reading to find out the answers to these FAQs.
We have all probably googled this or similar questions at least once during our university days when 24 hours just weren’t enough for all the things we needed to do. At a certain age we are capable of functioning and being productive with a minimal amount of sleep, but sooner or later that kind of a lifestyle is going to hit back at us like a boomerang.
How much sleep is enough is a relative question because sometimes even two hours may make us feel refreshed, but it’s not healthy at all. Most common symptoms of sleep deprivation include fatigue, memory problems, mood swings, depression, and in the long run even obesity or heart disease can be developed. If you have experienced any of them, or you always feel tired and exhausted, there is probably something wrong with your sleep habits.
Sleeping is just as important as eating or breathing, and we cannot function properly without it. Adults need approximately seven to nine hours of sleep every night. When was the last time you slept that much for at least seven days in a row? If you cannot remember, welcome to the club. So even now when we are older, and apparently not much wiser, in a wish to accomplish the goals we set, we sometimes tend to underestimate the power of a healthy sleep routine. It seems that today we are all living in a fast lane, with no time to be wasted, so we cut more and more time from our sleep to stay awake and achieve more. But, sleeping is not a waste of time, and it is essential that people realize that and start looking at sleep as some kind of self-care. Sleeping is more than just “charging the batteries,” and has an impact on the overall health on the long run, but sadly sleeping is usually low on our list of priorities, if even on it. Neglecting the sleep hygiene will sooner or later show of its consequences, so to prevent that we should organize better our daily activities and make a schedule which will include sleeping time. Usually, when we write down our planes for the specific day, we never include time for sleeping, like, we will sleep when we are done with everything else, no matter when or how long. And that is where we make the first and biggest mistake.
Babies spend the vast majority of their first year sleeping, and they can sleep up to 18 hours per day, not consecutive because they wake up often to eat. Six months old babies can connect more hours of sleep and even sleep through the entire night, that is when they start to develop sleep patterns. Those sleep patterns that we have been establishing since day one are something that we now as adults forget about, even though they are still quite beneficial. Our body loves routines, and it will quickly adapt to it, try going to bed every night at precisely 11 PM for at least a week, it will soon become natural, and you will be sleeping tight before midnight without even thinking about it. As we age, we manage to function with less sleep until we reach that minimum of 6 to 7 hours which should be somehow maintained as a bottom score.
A lot of people fails to estimate how much time they spend sleeping. You can track your sleep by writing it all down in some form of a sleep journal. If you sleep 7 to 9 hours on average, but you still feel drowsy or tired in the morning, you are probably either oversleeping or not getting enough rest.
The recommended amount of sleep for each age group is listed in a table below, 1 or 2 hours less or more may also be appropriate.
|Age||Hours of sleep|
|Newborn (0-3 months)||14 – 17|
|Infant (4-11 months)||12 – 15|
|Toddler (1-2 years)||11 – 14|
|Pre-school (3-5 years)||10 – 13|
|School age (6-13 years)||9 – 11|
|Teen (14-17 years)||8 – 10|
|Young adult (18-25 years)||7 – 9|
|Adult (26-64 years)||7 – 9|
|Older adult (65+)||7 – 8|
Some people claim that sleeping is overrated, or that they will sleep when they die, which is kinda funny but true at the same time because excess sleep can sometimes lead to some negativity, depression or even result in developing sleep disorders. We all know about the benefits of a good night of rest, and it was always insisted on positive aspects of sleeping, but who would expect that sleeping too much can develop negative consequences. We would think that getting extra sleep would improve our performances and overall well being, but in fact, it makes us feel more sleepy and drained.
Did we mention that it is a waste of your time? Once we rest for proper eight hours, we are at the peak of our possibilities, every additional hour of sleep is unnecessary and it will lower our performance and energy. There are some theories which suggest that eight hours is too much and that we can train ourselves to function with only 5 to 6 hours of sleep and feel even more rested.
Notorious FOMO (fear of missing out) is one of the leading causes of sleep deprivation among teenagers and young adults. Their day starts and ends in bed with their smartphones, while they scroll through all social networks they delay their sleep sometimes for hours. It does not matter if they have to be in the classroom in four hours, for them it is more important to be present online and not miss any posts, pictures, tweets, then to sleep. Many write FOMO off as one of those temporarily overhyped things like YOLO, but FOMO is something different that should be approached more carefully and be treated as a potential disorder.
Also, we listen all the time about those famous, successful people, who multitask and manage to accomplish everything with a minimal amount of sleep, so we always think that sleeping less is a good thing which will make us more productive. It has become accepted that in order to achieve something big we have to make some sacrifices, and the first thing that we will sacrifice is our sleep because of no pain no gain mantra. But, is 6 hours of sleep enough? We tend to underestimate the importance of sleep, and even though it sometimes seems so, sleeping is not overrated, it will help you more than you realize.
These two types of sleepers are something like Jin and Jang, for ones the day is just starting, but for the other ones, it’s just coming to an end. Two different life philosophies are summed up in these two types of people; the “early bird catches the worm” team vs. “I’ll get enough sleep when I die” team. It is hard to tell which of one of these two extremes is a better option because both have their pros and cons.
Night owls are almost living like they are in a different time zone; around 20 percent of the population considers themselves as night owls. Their internal biological clock is set to function differently from the majority of society. And even though this lifestyle at the moment works well for them, it has been proven that it has a more negative impact. People who stay up late have an increased risk of developing health problems like diabetes, and they also have a higher level of body fat and low muscle mass.
Staying awake throughout the night is followed by some other unhealthy habits, like eating late or taking snacks during the night, which contributes to their risk of depression. Even though they fall asleep in the early morning hours, most night owls do not have the luxury to sleep for proper 7 or 8 hours because they have to wake up early, and they are usually sleep deprived, tired or anxious. If sleep deprivation becomes chronic, it can affect their mental health. Luckily, sleeping habits can be changed. For example, some medications like melatonin can help out in the beginning for an easier adjustment, and you should take it approximately two hours before your desired sleep time.
Early birds are also known as larks or simply morning persons, they go to bed early in the evening and wake up early in the morning feeling probably more energetic than a night owl would ever feel.
You have probably heard things like every hour of sleep before midnight counts as two after midnight, so switching from a night owl to an early bird is desirable. The vast majority of people does not fit in these two groups; they are somewhere in the healthy middle. Some people are forced to live the life of a night owl due to their jobs, but everybody else should make an effort to establish a healthier sleep routine.
The transition can be tough for night owls because they need to exhaust themselves more and go to bed earlier. Do not set your goals high, go step by step instead. If you were going to bed at 5 AM until recently, don’t set your alarm for 6 AM. Give yourself ten days of consistency for a proper switch of sleep routine. Make yourself busy during the evening, go to the gym, exercise, socialize, or do whatever will make you tired as it will be easier to fall asleep early. Limit the light exposure at night in your bedroom and stay away from your smartphone screen. The sound of alarm may be too severe for rookies, so we suggest trying out the sunrise alarm, which will gradually fill your room with light, imitating the rise of the sun and allowing you to wake up more naturally. Stick to your new sleep schedule even on weekends, so no cheat days permitted. Your body may not be happy at first, so help it out with a dose of caffeine in the morning, and avoid it in the evening.
True early birds are rare as only the small percentage of people can feel truly bright-eyed so early. The point is not to become an early bird, but to establish a healthy sleep pattern. Night owls feel like they have a chronical jet lag, which sounds awful, but the good thing is that the shift to early birds will come naturally with age. Although there are some night owls among adults, most of them are young people, students, who can afford to stay up all night and wake up in the afternoon. As their daily life and obligations start to change, their sleeping habits will follow. As we know, the majority of early birds are seniors so eventually it will all settle down in its place.