Sleep is still not very well-understood, but more is being researched and learnt about it all the time. As life makes people busier than they have ever been before, we take a look at what we know right now. How important is it, what are our bodies doing while we sleep, and how much do we need? I could say the answer to these 3 questions are VERY important, dreaming, and A LOT more than I get, but let’s see what science has to say…
Why We Need Sleep
What are our bodies actually doing while we’re asleep? As it turns out, plenty of important things. Physical structures are repaired and maintained, so it’s very important for healing and health. Resting the mind seems to help you to organise and process information, and stay emotionally balanced. We still don’t really know why that is the case, but we are sure that it is. Just ask anyone who hasn’t had any sleep and they’ll affirm this!
Sleep Cycle Stages
What we have managed to learn is that there are 5 stages of sleep, and people cycle through them all in blocks of about 90 minutes. After one cycle is completed, the next one begins. The first 4 stages involve non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and the fifth involves rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
The names are quite self-explanatory; during the NREM phases we are still, while in the REM phase our eyes are constantly moving. The cause of REM is unclear, though it may be due to seeing visual images in our dreams. In each successive NREM stage, we move to a deeper level of sleep.
The REM and deeper NREM phases are where most repair, processing and regeneration seems to happen. Being woken up out of the third and fourth stages of NREM would interrupt that and could cause damage to your body and mind. This is also true of being woken before the end of a REM stage. When we wake up naturally, it’s at the end of a REM phase.
Sleeping the Right Amount
Getting enough sleep is clearly essential if you want to perform optimally. Missing out on small amounts may have graver consequences than you think; there is a difference between delivering your peak output and not functioning at all. Just one hour less sleep at night has been found to affect reasoning skills and cardiovascular health, among other things. You’ll get through your day without optimal rest, but your performance will definitely suffer.
On the other hand, getting too much shuteye is not a good idea either, so if you’re not tired, why not have some fun and play at our online casino instead?
Research has found correlations between undiagnosed health problems and sleeping for longer. In addition, spending extended time in bed has been linked to depression, increased pain and inflammation, feelings of fatigue, impaired fertility and more.
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
Like so many other things in life, getting the balance right seems important when it comes to sleep. The right amount for every person is unique, but most experts agree on the following averages:
- Newborn to 3 months old: 14 – 17 hrs
- 4 to 11 months old: 12 – 15 hrs
- 1 to 2 years old: 11 – 14 hrs
- 3 to 5 years old: 10 – 13 hrs
- 6 to 13 years old: 9 – 11 hrs
- 14 to 17 years old: 8 – 10 hrs
- Adults (18 to 64 years old): 7 – 9 hrs
- Older adults (65+): 7 – 8 hrs
The best way to work out how much time you should spend asleep is to compare yourself to the recommendation for your age group (for adults, 7 to 9 hours) and also to consider how you feel. If you struggle to get up in the morning, or feel drowsy while you drive, you probably aren’t getting enough shuteye for your needs.
Some experts have also begun suggesting breaking daily sleep up into 2 blocks, with a nap in the afternoon. This could fit with our circadian rhythms better, so if you can try this out it might be what you need. Rather than fighting the afternoon slump with coffee, you could treat yourself to a siesta!