Whether you’re struggling to juggle your work and home life or you’re simply finding the land of nod is just out of reach every night, trying to manage on less and less sleep may feel inevitable. But even a small amount of sleep loss can have a very negative impact on your energy levels, mood, appetite, mental agility and the way you deal with stress. Indeed, over the longer term a chronic lack of sleep can really wreck both your physical and your mental health. If this sounds familiar, then the best way to tackle your lack of sleep is to understand what’s causing it in the first place, and then to instigate some positive changes whilst you’re awake.
Remember that there’s a big difference between the amount of sleep you can just about manage on, and the amount you need to function at your very best. Across several studies it has been found that adults only tend to get around 7 hours of sleep a night or less. Indeed, with the pace of life being what it is today, even this amount will sound great to many people when in fact it’s not nearly enough and can lead to chronic sleep deprivation. Just because 6 or 7 hours of sleep a night means you can get through your day, it doesn’t mean an extra hour or two in bed wouldn’t do wonders for your wellbeing.
While everyone is different, and therefore people’s sleep needs vary, most healthy adults require between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night to get the best out of their day. Children and teenagers need even more than that. Even older people need at least 7 hours a night (despite the idea that they need less) however older adults often struggle to sleep for long at night so naps in the daytime can help.
The amount of sleep you need also depends on your age. As a guide, infants aged up to 3 months old require 14 to 17 hours’ sleep a day, whilst teenagers need 9 to 10. By young adulthood this requirement drops to 7 to 9 hours, with middle-aged to older adults needing around 7 to 8 hours a night.
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If you’re regularly getting less than the recommended amount of sleep, the chances are you’re sleep deprived. Worryingly, it’s hard to gauge just how much this lack of sleep is affecting you. This is because a lot of signs of sleep deprivation are much less obvious than simply nodding off during Coronation Street. If it’s become a bit of a bad habit, you might not even remember what fully awake and firing on all cylinders really feels like. Whilst it might seem normal to desperately need a lay-in at the weekend or doze off after a big lunch, this normality is only the case if you’re seriously lacking in good quality sleep.