Are you getting enough sleep?

Lack of sleep can do lots of things to your body. It can make you hungry, grumpy and tired, and it can even affect your immune system.

There is no set amount of hours that people need to sleep at night, however most experts agree that as we get older, we tend to need less. A good indicator as to whether you’re getting enough sleep is if you feel drowsy during the day. If it’s a yes, then you’re probably not getting enough.

An approximate suggestion is between seven and nine hours of sleep a night. Many people suggest that in order to function, an adult needs on average eight hours. However, this is not always to case. The amount of sleep that you require will definitely differ from the amount of sleep your neighbour does and it will largely depend on your lifestyle.

Influencing your sleeping patterns

There are many factors in life that can affect your sleeping patterns including stress levels, fitness, overall general health and your age.

General health: if overall you’re in good shape, you may need less sleep than someone who suffers from a chronic problem such as diabetes or high blood pressure. This is generally because having a chronic illness can impact on your stress levels which are likely to tire you throughout the day.

Stress: the stress you carry may also impact how deep and how long you sleep at night. If you’ve constantly got something on your mind, it’s likely to play over and over while you attempt to sleep and even during your sleep state. Stress factors could include finances, caring for a family member or a health issue.

Fitness: being fit during the day can definitely affect the way you sleep at night. When you exercise, even light to moderate exercise, you can burn off stress and release endorphins which help to relax your muscles.

Consequences

Consequences of sleep deprivation vary and you may not suffer any or all just because you’ve lost a couple of hours of sleep. Effects include irritability, weight gain, memory problems and in excessive amounts, can even lead to depression.

Researchers have found that sleepiness slows your thought process, alertness and can lead to lack of focus. It has also been found to impair memory, meaning you may forget things you’re sure you should be remembering. This is probably because sleep is said to aid memory, embedding what you learn and experience during the day into your mind as you rest.

In terms of irritability, lack of sleep can alter your mood significantly and may affect your ability to cope with stress or change. Going further, excessive sleep deprivation can be linked to depression although researchers aren’t yet aware of which condition comes first, depression or sleep deprivation. People who don’t sleep can develop depression and those with depression often have trouble sleeping.

How you can help

If you feel like you’re always tired and irritable, it’s possible that you’re not getting enough sleep. But, there are plenty of ways you can help.

Firstly, try to lower your caffeine intake, especially later in the evening. Alcohol can also trigger a restless night so if you drink any, try to avoid it close to bedtime. Secondly, definitely try to exercise everyday if you can, but try your best to do it outside in the fresh air and sunshine, and exercise earlier in the day rather than close to the time you’re planning on going to sleep. This will give your body time to relax again.

Another good tip is making sure your room is set up for a good night’s rest. This means making sure light and noise are blocked out and avoid having a TV or computer in the bedroom. And try to keep a consistent sleeping pattern, even on weekends.

Regardless of the amount of sleep you need, your body should recuperate if it feels it’s not getting enough. This means that if you need nine hours of sleep, and you only get five on any particular night, as you slowly, slowly catch up on those lost hours, you and your sleep patterns will recover.  


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