You might be surprised to learn that people spend a third of their lives sleeping. This fact in itself should demonstrate how important sleep is for your general health and well-being. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recommends eight hours of sleep per night to ensure that one wakes up mentally and physically refreshed. However, research has shown that 63% of Americans do not follow this guideline. In fact, 31% report that they slumber for less than seven hours each weeknight.
Despite this, some people feel well-rested after sleeping for just six hours, while others need more sleep to achieve the same state. The sufficient amount of sleeping time required depends in part on one's stage of life:
1. Infancy to pre-adolescence. These are the stages in which a person sleeps the longest hours. The body clock of a newborn infant is not yet fully developed. Hence, a baby either drowses or snoozes for anywhere between 16 to 20 hours during the day and night.
As a child grows older, his or her sleeping hours decrease naturally. At three months to one year old, a child sleeps an average of 14 hours. By the age of three, he or she needs only about 10 to 12 hours in bed. This remains the same until the teenage years.
2. Adolescence. Adolescents require about eight to nine and a half hours of sleep every night. A sufficient amount of snoozing time is critical for one's cerebral and physical development. In fact, studies have shown a strong correlation between lack of sleep and poor grades and athletic ability in school.
3. Adulthood. In this stage, people need between 8 and 8.4 hours of sleep, which can be divided between a night of six to seven hours and a daytime nap of one to two hours. Nonetheless, some people find it difficult to achieve this, especially in the face of pressing work issues that occupy the mind and prevent people from sleeping. Each sleepless night adds up to one's hours of 'sleep debt.' According to NSF's Sleep in America poll, many American adults slumber longer on weekends to make up for their shortfall of sleeping hours during the week.
4. Old age. As mentioned above, the older you get, the fewer hours you must devote to sleeping. Elderly people often take a longer time to fall asleep. When they manage to do so, it is usually for short periods of time. This is because they are lighter sleepers and rouse more easily during the night. These problems result in a significant decrease in total sleeping hours. One way to avoid sleep deprivation at this age is to spend more time resting in bed, such as retiring earlier than usual for the night and lying in later in the mornings.
Sleep is a necessary element in our lives. Without enough rest, our brain's ability to function is seriously affected. Studies of sleep-deprived people reveal that they have shorter attention spans, leading to problems in concentration in school or at work. Furthermore, continued lack of sleep results in slower reaction times and rational decision-making when faced with rapidly changing circumstances. This could be particularly fatal when driving a car or working with machinery.
Even though every stage in life presents a different optimal amount of sleeping hours, how much sleep one needs to feel completely rested and fully functional differs among individuals. Understand what your body is telling you. If you wake up feeling irritable and fatigued, then you are probably not getting enough sleep, and therefore, you should make an effort to rectify this situation immediately.