Sleep Deficiency – How Much Sleep Should You Be Getting?
A recent survey conducted by Harvard Health found that many adults are sleeping less than six hours a night. In fact, 75% of adults experience at least a few sleep-deprived nights per week.
The occasional bout of insomnia is typically nothing to worry about. However, chronic sleep loss and prolonged periods of sleep deprivation can contribute to health problems such as high blood pressure, weight gain, and a decrease in the immune system’s power.
While more research is needed to explore the links between chronic sleep deficiency and overall health, it’s safe to say that sleep is too important to skip.
What is Sleep Deficiency?
Sleeping is a basic human need. Just like drinking, eating, and breathing, our body needs to rest and that requires the right amount of sleep. Like these other needs, sleeping is a key component to the foundation for great health and well-being throughout our lifetime.
Sleep deficiency can lead to physical and mental health problems, injuries, loss of productivity, and even a greater risk of death. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), sleep deprivation is a condition that happens when an individual doesn’t get enough sleep. Sleep deficiency is a broader condition. Sleep deficiency occurs if you experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- You don’t get enough sleep (sleep deprivation)
- You sleep at the wrong time of day
- You don’t sleep well, wake frequently, or experience restless sleep
- You don’t get all of the different types of sleep that your body needs
- You have a sleep disorder that causes poor quality sleep or prevents you from getting enough sleep (such as sleep apnea)
Why is Sleep Important?
Sleep plays an essential role in overall health and well-being throughout life. Getting the right kind of sleep, at the right time can help protect your physical health, mental health, cognitive functioning, and quality of life.
The way you feel while you’re awake depends on how well you sleep. While you are sleeping, your body works to promote healthy brain function and to maintain your physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development.
The damage from sleep deprivation and deficiency depends on the severity of the symptoms and can differ from case to case. It can occur acutely, or it can harm you over an extended period of time. For example, long-term sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems (such as high blood pressure). Sleep deficiency can also influence how well you work, think, react, learn, and how well you get along with others.
Sleep deficiency occurs when you don’t get the right kind of sleep. There are four stages of sleep. Scientists categorize the stages of sleep based on the characteristics of the body and brain during sleep. Stage 1,2, and 3 are classified as ‘non-REM sleep,’ and the fourth stage is REM sleep.
- Stage 1 is the lightest stage of sleep.
- Stage 2 sleep represents deeper sleep.
- Stage 3 sleep represents progressively deeper stages of sleep.
- Stage 4, or REM sleep, is the stage of sleep associated with dreaming. It is very different physiologically from the other stages of sleep. REM Sleep also plays a crucial role in memory formation
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
According to the US Department of Human Health Services (HHS), the amount of sleep you require each day will change over the course of your life. HHS recommends the following age-based sleep guidelines:
- Infants 12 months and younger – between 12 and 16 hours of sleep each day (including naps)
- Children (aged 1-2 years) – between 11 and 14 hours of sleep each day (including naps)
- Children (aged 3-5 years) – between 10 and 13 hours of sleep each day (including naps)
- Children (aged 6-12 years) – between 9 and 12 hours of sleep each day
- Teenagers (aged 13-18 years) – between 8 and 10 of sleep each day
- Adults (aged 18 years and older) – between 7 and 8 of sleep each day
Bad sleep habits and long-term sleep loss can negatively affect your health. If you routinely lose sleep or choose to sleep less than needed, the sleep loss adds up. The total of your sleep lost is called your sleep debt. For example, if you lose 3 hours of sleep each night, you’ll have a sleep debt of 21 hours for the week.
While naps can provide a short-term boost in alertness and performance, napping doesn’t offer all of the benefits associated with good night’s sleep that cycles through all 4 stages including REM. Sleep deprivation and deficiency are not only harmful on a personal level, but can also cause large-scale damage. So be sure to catch the right amount of zzz’s!
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