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The Best Thing You Can Do for Your Health Today

The National Sleep Foundation has updated their sleep guidelines based on the review of over 300 sleep studies from the past 10 years. Find out how much you should be sleeping and just how important it is to get enough sleep below!
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Health experts have argued for years about how many hours of sleep each night provides maximum benefit. However, most health experts agree that most American adults get far too little sleep.

A 2013 Gallup poll found that 40 percent of all adults sleep less than six hours a night. Children, also sleep far too little. A 2014 Sleep in America poll found that 58 percent of teens sleep less than 7 hours a night. Not getting enough sleep is linked with a variety of serious health conditions (like an increased risk for heart disease and overall mortality rate).

The CDC has declared our lack of sleep a public health epidemic. Even though lack of sleep has been cited to cause a variety of dangerous health conditions, many people are confused at how much sleep is necessary each day. Even experts have disagreed about how much sleep each person should get a night.

Recently, the National Sleep Foundation took a look at over 300 sleep studies and has released new guidelines about how much sleep adults, children, teens, and seniors should be getting each night. Find out more about these updated guidelines below:

The Risks of Too Little Sleep

Not getting enough sleep has detrimental effects both in the short-term and in the long-term. According to data collected by CNN, the short-term risks of sleep deprivation include:

Reduced Mental Capacity

Lack of sleep causes memory problems, a poor memory, difficult processing information, and difficulty making decisions.

Slowed Reaction Time

When you are tired, your reaction times are slowed. This means that engaging in dangerous activities (like driving or operating machinery) is much more dangerous. A study from the journal JAMA Internal Medicine in 2012 found that driving while tired is as almost as dangerous as driving drunk.

Mood Swings

When you have trouble thinking and take longer to react, you tend to have more emotional responses. Your are more likely to be cranky, get into arguments, and react more strongly to any occurrence.

Reduced Immune System

When you are tired, your immune system is compromised. This may be why a chronic lack of sleep is tied into the development of many common diseases. In the short term, it means you are more likely to catch minor illnesses, such as colds and the flu.

Long-term risks of sleep deprivation are even more dangerous. According to numerous studies, a lack of sleep is a contributing factor in many common health problems and diseases. Studies have found that during sleep, your body is more efficient at removing waste, balancing hormone levels, and even reducing your risk for developing cancer.

Lack of sleep has also been tied to leptin levels and ghrelin levels. Being tired decreases leptin levels while increasing hunger-producing ghrelin levels. This combo can quickly lead to obesity. A lack of sleep has also been tied to increases in the following health conditions:

Increase in Pain

A 2014 study from the UK found that in individuals over age 50, a lack of sleep was the strongest predictor of pain. This means that the less sleep the study participants had, the more pain they had overall for any reason. Increase in chronic disease risk: A study from 2013 by UK researchers found that when study participants cut their sleep from 7.5 to 6.5 hours a night, they had increases in the expression of genes that are linked to stress, cancer, diabetes, inflammation, and reduced immunity.

Increase in Risk of Dying

A study from 2010 conducted by American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that adjusted mortality of individuals with chronic insomnia was three times that of a person that gets enough sleep a night. A poor sleeper is three times more likely to die from a disease than someone who gets enough sleep. The study found that sleeping less than five hours a night doubles the risk of heart attacks, heart disease, and strokes.

How Much Sleep is Enough?

The 2014 National Sleep Foundation study examined over 300 previous sleep studies to identify what amount is enough for various age brackets. The study examined studies published between 2004 and 2014. Based on the data from these studies, the National Sleep Foundation recommends the following sleep times:

Recommended Sleep Guidelines 
  • Newborns (younger than 3 months): 14-17 hours
  • Infants (3 months to 12 months): 12-15 hours
  • Toddlers (1-2): 11-14 hours
  • Preschoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours
  • Children (6-13): 9-11 hours
  • Teens (14-17): 8-10 hours
  • Adults (18-64): 7-9 hours
  • Seniors (65+): 7-8 hours

The National Sleep Foundation still recommends that most adults get at least eight hours of sleep a night. The study authors stated in their review,

“Sleep durations outside the recommended range may be appropriate, but deviating far from the normal range is rare. Individuals who habitually sleep outside the normal range may be exhibiting signs or symptoms of serious health problems or, if done volitionally, may be compromising their health and well-being.”

What is Interfering with Your Sleep?

Just because you are in bed for 8 hours a night does not mean that you are sleeping well. Poor sleep and insomnia can cause health problems even if you are in bed for 8 hours each night. If you are in bed for the required number of hours, but still feel tired upon waking, something is preventing you from sleeping effectively, and you will not get the benefits of a good night’s sleep. The following elements could be disrupting your sleep:

Stress

Stress can be a powerful interrupter of sleep. The National Sleep Foundation lists stress as one of the most common reasons for insomnia. If you wake in the middle of the night unable to get back to sleep, stress could be a cause. Stress can also contribute to restless sleep, teeth grinding, and nightmares. Releasing stress before bed can help provide better sleep.

Technology

Recent studies have found that technology is affecting our sleep in dangerous ways. Blue lights from electronics interfere with the production of melatonin, which is the hormone that makes you feel sleepy. A study from 2014 conducted by UK researchers found that most people get 1 or 2 hours less of sleep each night than 60 years ago. TVs, smartphones, and other electronic devices are contributing factors to the reduction in sleep time.

Another study published in the journal BMJ Open in 2014 found that teens are particularly at-risk for technology-related sleep deprivation. The study found that the more time teens spent on electronic devices, the less they slept. This was true whether they used the devices at night or during the day. Teens who used electronics for more than four hours a day were 49 percent more likely to need more than an hour to fall asleep at night.

Lack of Schedule

Going to bed and waking up at different times is also bad for your sleep patterns. Your body likes to stay on a strict clock, when possible, and will regulate the production of sleep hormones when you have a consistent wake and sleep time. Melatonin sets the entire 24-hour clock for the body. The more structured your clock, the better you will sleep. Melatonin is regulated by the rising and setting of the sun. If a person never goes outdoors in the day or moves to a period of darkness at night, the body is extremely confused and produces less melatonin, which contributes to insomnia.

How to Get Enough Sleep

Most adults should sleep between 7 and 9 hours a night, in solid, restful sleep. Tossing and turning, waking at night from insomnia, and inconsistent sleep times create poor sleep habits that can counteract your time spent in bed. Even if you are in bed for 8 hours a night, if you are not actually sleeping restfully, then you still may have problems associated with sleep deprivation. So, what can you do to get enough sleep? The following guidelines may help:

Schedule Your Day

Creating sleep habits will help you get restful sleep. Avoid the use of electronics for at least an hour before your bedtime. Try to set strict sleep and wake times (such as going to bed at 10PM and getting up at 6AM). Try to watch the sun rise and set each day outdoors. This will help stimulate the appropriate levels of melatonin in your body.

Wind Down

Sleep experts recommend a time of winding down each day. If you are turning off electronics during this time, the process of winding down is even easier. Try turning off lights, taking a warm bath, drinking a warm beverage, or reading a book. Do not watch TV or play on your phone.

Squeeze Out Insomnia

The National Sleep Foundation recommends trying to “squeeze out” insomnia by only going to bed for the number of hours you typically sleep in a night until your body’s rhythm is back in place. Gradually start going to bed earlier in 15 minute increments until you can sleep solidly through 8-9 hours at night.

Eliminate Stress

Stress can keep you from relaxing at night. During your winding down time, engage in stress-relieving activities, like taking a warm bath, having a massage, drinking a warm beverage, or practicing meditation. Whatever you can do to help unwind and relax at the end of the day will significantly improve your sleep at night. You do not want to go to bed full of stress and tension. Exercise and yoga during the day can help relieve stress and promote healthy sleep.

Nutritional Supplements

In some cases, insomnia is influenced by a lack of nutrition in the diet. Supplementing with any missing nutritional blocks can help relieve insomnia and promote healthy sleep. Web MD states that the following nutritional supplements can be beneficial in treating insomnia:

  • Chamomile
  • Lemon Balm
  • Melatonin
  • Valerian

According to the University of Maryland, 5 HTP may also be an effective supplement in treating insomnia. According to the University, 5 HTP is a chemical that transforms into serotonin in the brain. Serotonin regulates moods and behavior, and has been linked to improvements in mood, pain levels, and insomnia.

Simple Sleep Promotion Tips

In addition to the above sleep aids, you may also find the following small changes make a difference in your sleep patterns:

  • Keep your room dark.
  • Keep your room cool (under 70 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Use yellow or orange lights in the bedroom.
  • Only use the bedroom for restful activities, such as sleeping and meditation.

Get Enough Sleep and Improve Your Health

The National Sleep Foundation has found that most adults should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. Increasingly, studies are showing that protecting your sleep habits is one of the simplest and most effective health changes you can make that will boost your health in all areas. Eating well, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep are the three most important changes you can make to benefit your overall health and lifespan. If you suffer from insomnia, try the above tricks to kickstart your healthier sleep patterns.

Sources


http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-polls-data/sleep-in-america-poll/2014-sleep-in-the-modern-family/

http://www.cdc.gov/features/dssleep/

http://www.gallup.com/poll/166553/less-recommended-amount-sleep.aspx

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