There's no definitive answer to the question of how much sleep you need; it's different for everyone. That said, most people do best with about 7 to 8 hours nightly. The best way to figure it out is to take stock of how you feel the following day after a certain amount of sleep. If you're just not able to get into high gear, focus, and thrive throughout the day (without an IV of coffee), you're probably not getting enough sleep. Or, you may be getting too much, which can sap your energy, counterintuitive though it may seem. Of course, being in bed for the right number of hours isn't the whole picture. You need to get an appropriate amount of restful sleep. Healthy sleep involves cycles that must be completed to be restorative. And practicing good sleep hygiene is the key to getting enough restful sleep.
What Is Sleep Hygiene?
As the National Sleep Foundation says, lack of energy and sleepiness during the day is one of the most telling signs of poor sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene refers to practices that promote enough restful sleep to have plenty of energy upon waking. Good sleep hygiene helps you fall asleep promptly and stay asleep through the night. “Good” sleep hygiene differs from person to person in some respects, as different people respond differently to particular stimuli, relaxation techniques, and other factors that can affect sleep. Still, there are a number of generalizations that help people get enough restful sleep to start the next day with a high level of energy.
Here are some reliable ways to accomplish this:
Sleep on a schedule to promote energizing sleep. Your body falls asleep and wakes best when it's trained via repetition to do so at specific times. But don't lie in bed if you're not tired. Although maintaining a sleep schedule is important, trying to force yourself to sleep if you're not ready interferes with getting enough rest. Similarly, if you're more tired than usual a little before your normal bedtime, turn in a little early. Exercise daily before 2:00 pm. Physical activity helps you become tired and to sleep soundly. However, exercise is initially invigorating, so it will keep you up if you work out too close to bedtime. Skip the naps during the day. Although a quick catnap can help you recharge, it decreases your “sleep debt,” which in turn makes it more difficult to fall asleep at night. Expose yourself to natural light during the day and make the bedroom dark at bedtime. You sleep best when your environment aligns with your circadian rhythm (your body's natural sense of when it should sleep and wake). Skip caffeine, nicotine, and other stimulants after early afternoon, as they make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. While everyone responds differently, caffeine's effects typically last for at least several hours. Don't drink alcohol in the 4 to 6 hours before bed, even if you think it helps you get to sleep. It may make you drowsy, but it prevents you from sleeping continuously. Don't drink much in the few hours before bedtime, because waking up having to pee interferes with your restful sleep cycle. Don't eat much, either, in those last hours. If you're hungry, eat a light, healthy snack, so your hunger doesn't keep you up. But actively digesting food at bedtime interferes with sleep; fatty, acidic, greasy, heavy, and spicy foods can cause gastrointestinal discomfort that inhibits restful sleep, too. Sleep in a comfortable bed. Good sleep hygiene includes having a comfy mattress, pillow, and blanket that help lull you to sleep and keep you asleep. And limit use of the bed to sleep and sex. If you read, watch TV, work, play online, or do other activities in bed, your body ceases to associate it with sleep. Sleep in a comfortable environment, too. Set the temperature where you like it, use a fan if it soothes you, keep the room quiet, and otherwise see to it that your environment is calming and cozy. Face the clock away from you. Staring at it, watching your time for sleep slip away, causes anxiety that doesn't do you or your sleep any favors. Use soothing sounds if they help you fall asleep, as the one exception to keeping the room quiet. Low and mellow music, water or other nature sounds, and white noise machines are popular ways to pleasantly induce sleep. Do a calming activity shortly before bed. For many people, a warm bath, deep breathing exercises, or meditation work well. Make this part of your bedtime routine so your body associates it with sleep. And avoid stimulating activities in the few hours before bed. Don't get yourself wound up. Also, avoid TV, computers, mobile devices, and other electronic equipment during these last hours, too. Article Resources: sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need sleepfoundation.org/ask-the-expert/sleep-hygiene www.sleepassociation.org/patients-general-public/insomnia/sleep-hygiene-tips/ www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/docs/Info-sleep%20hygiene.pdf www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Sleep_hygiene?open