Lack of sleep has led me to make many bad decisions: I've fumbled at work, eaten an extra meal, forgotten important birthdays and on more than one occassion, worked through a terrible headache. I never attributed these mistakes to lack of sleep until recently when I rediscovered its true value.
Sleep makes people happy, productive and more energetic. But the lack of it can contribute to a string of health problems: weight-loss, high blood pressure, lower immunity and low productivity.
According to Gargi Sharma, weight management expert, "Quantity and quality of sleep has a direct impact on weight management. Many studies have showed that lack of sleep can cause an increase in the ghrelin to leptin ratio (appetite controlling hormones). This in turn increases appetite and also ups cravings, especially those for high carb foods. Lack of sleep also triggers fatigue, a disinterest in exercise, lowers your metabolism and leads to weight-gain."
How much sleep do we think is enough is debatable, but how much sleep we should actually get isn't. The National Sleep Foundation's (NSF), a nonprofit dedicated to promoting healthy sleep released a study that gave recommendations on how much sleep do people of different age groups actually need.
The research was led by a team of 18 leading scientists and experts from organisations like American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association of Anatomists etc. The panelists participated in rigorous scientific process that included reviewing over 300 current scientific publications and voting on how much sleep is appropriate through a person's lifespan.
Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)
The sleep foundation said that they cannot pin point the exact amount of sleep people of different age groups need but they can define a limit. In the meantime, it's also important to take a look at individual needs and assess how we feel with varying amounts of sleep. Some of the questions outlined were: Are you productive, healthy and happy on seven hours of sleep? Are you experiencing sleep problems? Do you feel sleepy while driving? Are you at the risk of any disease?
So ask yourself these questions before deciding on a number that works for you.
You snooze, you lose! Disturbed sleep isn't necessarily an outcome of less sleep. If research is to be believed, snoozing that gives you an extra few minutes to sleep, could also be what's disrupting your mind, making the process of waking up more difficult. When you snooze you're essentially plunging your brain back to sleep only to be woken up again. This makes waking up harder than it already is and may leave you disoriented.
According to researchers, the time difference between when you're supposed to wake up and when you do wake up is known as 'social jet lag'. It isn't always question of duration but of timing. Are we sleeping in the time frame that our bodies require us to? Those who don't sleep enough are at the risk of weight-gain and a host of other problems. The ones who get more sleep than required are also susceptible to heart disease and other risks. So it's important to figure out how little is too little, how much is too much and keep it up to lead a healthy, more positive life.