Getting a good night's sleep can leave you feeling rested and refreshed, and is absolutely vital for maintaining good health. Not getting enough sleep is linked to all sorts of health problems, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Yet some people constantly struggle with getting the rest they need, and the more we learn about sleep, the more we realize how little we really know.
People often wonder how much sleep a person really needs at night to get the maximum benefit. Many studies and numerous experts have weighed in on this subject, and the conclusion is that there is no easy answer or magic number. Since everyone's body is different and no one really fits a typical mold, the number varies from individual to individual.
There are many factors involved in determining the correct amount of sleep you need, including your age and overall general health. But even among people who are the in the same age group, one could feel perfectly rested and refreshed after 7 hours of sleep while another person needs 9 hours to get the same feeling.
There are also a few other terms you may have heard of before, for instance, your basal sleep requirement. This is the number of hours your body needs on a regular basis to feel rested and refreshed and maintain good health. This is the number that varies by age group and even person to person. Another factor, called your sleep debt, is the amount of sleep you lose due to temporary insomnia, shift work, or a late night out on the town and then arising early to get to work.
The basal sleep need for normal adults is said to be somewhere between 7 and 9 hours per night. This is the number you should shoot for on a regular basis, because it will give you the best chance for getting the proper rest your body needs. Individual requirements could vary, and our modern hectic lifestyles may seem to make this number difficult to achieve consistently. This is where the basal sleep number and the sleep debt number come together and things get a bit complicated.
You may achieve your basal sleep number for a week or two in a row, but something suddenly comes up and you cannot get the right amount of sleep, and begin falling into "sleep debt." But researchers have discovered that it's possible to pay back your sleep debt, although it can be a long process and not something that can be done in one night. The idea is to add on extra time, an hour or two, each night until you feel you've gotten back to a point of feeling rested and refreshed in the morning. It could actually take a few months before your debt is fully repaid.
Newborns and infants require the most amount of sleep, somewhere between 12 - 18 hours, and toddlers need 12 - 14 hours. Preschoolers can use between 11 - 13, while middle grade students require 10-11 hours to perform their best. Contrary to popular belief, teens only require 8 - 9.5 hours each night.
Sleep is vital to maintaining good health, and if you're not getting enough, remember that it's important to try to repay your sleep debt and get back on the right track.
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