Sleep deprivation: Doctor gives tips for a good night’s sleep
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We all have an idea of how much sleep we individually require to function properly. Some people claim they thrive on just five hours of sleep, while others need a full eight hours of sleep to get through any given day. Is five hours of sleep enough, what about seven hours? Express.co.uk reveals everything you need to know, with help from the Sleep Council.
Sleep deprivation, also known as insufficient sleep or sleeplessness, is the condition of not having enough sleep.
You can have acute sleep deprivation or chronic sleep deprivation, and neither is pleasant.
According to the Sleep Council, just one night of interrupted sleep negatively affects mood, attention span and cognitive ability.
However, an occasional night where sleep is disturbed won’t harm your health – you’ll just be tired the next day, and grumpier!
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A good night’s sleep is essential to repair, heal and restore your body overnight, especially the heart, blood vessels, immune system and cardiovascular system.
You need to get enough sleep to keep these parts of the body and your vital organs functioning at their optimal levels.
The Sleep Council site states: “Research has found that those who frequently get fewer than six hours a night are at significantly increased risk of stroke and heart disease, with evidence that not sleeping enough may ramp up the ‘fight or flight’ response to stress, releasing hormones that speed up heart rate and raise blood pressure.”
Is five hours of sleep enough? Is seven hours of sleep enough?
There is no set number of hours of sleep you need to get every night, however, the Sleep Council offers a rough idea.
The site reads: “While there is no magic number for how much sleep we should get, there is a general consensus that around seven to eight hours is best.
“Experts believe that most adults require somewhere between six and nine hours in order to feel refreshed and to function well both mentally and physically.”
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The sleep charity’s website explains that sleep quality is more important than sleep quantity.
While research shows that regularly sleeping less than six hours is associated with many of the adverse effects of sleep deprivation, dissatisfaction with your sleep is just as bad.
Sleep quality refers to your experience of sleep and how satisfied and refreshed you feel when you wake up.
According to the Sleep Foundation, sleep quality is just as much of an essential human need as breathing, eating and drinking.
If you regularly get less than six hours of sleep a night, it might be time to overhaul your sleep and lifestyle habits to improve your sleep quality.
Sleep disturbances, your bedroom environment and daytime sleep habits all play a role in your sleep quality.
Ensuring you get high-quality sleep, even if it is for only 7 hours a night, will support your physical and mental health.
If any of the following is true, your sleep quality is up to scratch:
- You fall asleep soon after getting into bed, within 30 minutes or less.
- You typically sleep straight through the night, waking up no more than once per night.
- You’re able to sleep the recommended amount of hours for your age group.
- You fall back asleep within 20 minutes if you do wake up.
- You feel rested, restored, and energised upon waking up in the morning.
If not, the Sleep Foundation has listed seven ways to improve your sleep quality:
- Stop watching television and using your phone or computer for at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Electronic devices emit bright blue light that your brain perceives as sunlight, tricking it into delaying sleep and keeping you awake longer than you’d like.
- Transform your bedroom into a dark, quiet, and cool oasis. Set your thermostat to somewhere in the low- to mid-60 degrees Fahrenheit, and use blackout curtains or a white noise machine to further relax your senses.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Following a consistent sleep schedule trains your brain to recognise when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to wake.
- Make sure your sleep schedule allows for enough time to sleep. Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine. Select activities that relax and calm you, like taking a warm bath, listening to an audiobook, or journaling. Performing these activities in the same order every night creates a pattern for your brain to recognise them as the prelude to sleep.
- Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake. Both of these substances can stay in your system for some time and disrupt your sleep quality. Avoid drinking alcohol within three hours of bedtime, and caffeine within five hours.
- Get some sunlight in the morning. Just 15-30 minutes outside in the sun can help wake you up and reset your circadian rhythm.
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