Getting enough sleep at night can make the difference between feeling focused, energetic, happy and healthy the next day or feeling groggy, irritable, emotionally unstable, hungry and exhausted. However, between an overly planned, busy life, anxiety, stress and chronic pain, many adults don’t get enough sleep every night. As a matter of fact, research Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that one in three American adults does not get the minimum recommended number of hours of sleep per night.
But how many hours of sleep do you need per night? How common is it that adults don’t get enough sleep? What are the consequences of not getting enough sleep? What can you do to sleep better at night? Read on for our answers to the most common questions about getting enough sleep, and see if you can start getting the quantity and quality of restorative sleep your body needs to feel its best.
Prevalence of insufficient and bad sleep
If you find yourself tossing and turning at night, or rushing around so much all day that you only get a few hours of sleep each night, you’re not alone. As previously mentioned, one in three adults fails to meet sleep recommendations, with an even higher prevalence of insufficient sleep among certain racial and ethnic groups. For example, only 54% of Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders, non-Hispanic Blacks, and mixed-race non-Hispanics actually met the requirements for sound sleep.
Trouble falling asleep and staying asleep can reduce the number of hours you sleep each night. ONE National Sleep Foundation study found that 45% of American adults have trouble falling asleep at least one night a week and 23% have trouble falling asleep five or more nights a week. Additionally, falling asleep isn’t the only struggle, with 53% of respondents reporting trouble staying asleep and 35% of survey respondents rating their sleep quality as “poor” or “just fair.”
Consequences of not getting enough sleep
Sleep deprivation can be acute or chronic, depending on whether you’ve given up enough rest for just a few nights or for a longer period of time. While almost everyone has muddled through a day after a good night’s sleep and thus knows the tiredness, lack of concentration and lack of energy of acute sleep deprivation, the consequences of even a single night with too little sleep can be surprisingly widespread and serious. As insufficient sleep becomes a chronic problem, the scale and magnitude of the side effects become all the more serious.
Consequences of short-term insufficient sleep:
- difficulty concentrating
- Little energy
- Impaired memory
- Lack of decision-making ability
- Mood swings and difficulty regulating emotions
- Increased appetite
- Increased response to stress
- Somatic Pain
- Poor physical and mental performance
- behavioral disorders
- weight gain
- Circadian rhythm disorders
- Increased risk of accidents
- Disorders of blood sugar regulation
Long-term consequences of not getting enough sleep:
- cardiovascular disease
- metabolic disorder
- Type 2 diabetes
- mood swings
- Premature cognitive decline
- colon cancer
- all-cause mortality
How much sleep do you need per night?
Because the body’s sleep needs vary throughout life, the CDC, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research, and the National Sleep Foundation base their recommendations on the number of hours of sleep you need per night based on your age. Additionally, the recommended number of hours of sleep per night is based on the consensus of a panel of experts who weighed all available evidence related to sleep duration and health categories, including general health, cardiovascular health, metabolic health, mental health, immunological function, human performance, cancer, pain and mortality. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research states that the goal of their sleep duration recommendations is “sleep duration, or the range of sleep durations, that promotes optimal health in adults ages 18 to 60.”
According to their evidence, adults should sleep 7 or more hours a night regularly for optimal health, with the ideal range being between 7 and 9 hours. Young adults, people with medical conditions, or those recovering from sleep deprivation may need more than nine hours a night. The consensus statement adds that regularly sleeping less than 7 hours a night is associated with decreased performance, immune system disorders, increased pain and a greater risk of accidents and mistakes, as well as adverse health outcomes such as weight gain and obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, diabetes, depression and increased risk of death.
The CDC extends guidelines for the recommended number of hours of sleep per night to include newborns 0–3 months of age (14–17 hours), infants 4–12 months of age (12–16 hours per 24 hours), and toddlers in old age from 1-2 years (11-14 hours per 24 hours), preschool children aged 3-5 years (10-13 hours per 24 hours), school children aged 6-12 years (9-12 hours per 24 hours) and teenagers aged 13–18 (8–10 hours per 24 hours).
Tips for getting more sleep each night
The first step to making sure you’re getting enough sleep each night is to give yourself enough time in bed. While this may seem obvious, many of us just don’t go to bed early enough. Since the recommendation for adults is to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night, you need to allow at least seven hours of undisturbed time in bed with no lights on. This means that even reading or watching TV in bed at night must be finished at least seven hours before you intend to wake up. Consider how you can consolidate your evening or morning routine to extend your sleep window. For example, if you spend time each morning preparing your lunch for work, consider preparing meals for the week on weekends, or maybe try a healthy breakfast you can eat on the commute, like homemade protein balls or a nutritious smoothie or protein shake.
Once you’ve scheduled enough hours of sleep into your night, it’s important to also practice good sleep hygiene to optimize the quality of your sleep and help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Limit screen time before bed or use a blue light filter, as blue light can disrupt sleep patterns. Avoid caffeine at least six hours before bed and consider eating foods high in melatonin or tryptophan to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. There are also bedtime herbal teas that relax your body and mind and lull you into a peaceful state to naturally induce sleep.
Finally, improve your bedroom’s sleep environment by keeping it dark, cool, and quiet. Sleep headphones can block out distracting noises for a quieter bedroom, and a weighted blanket can relieve anxiety and restlessness. However, if you are having trouble sleeping on a regular basis, it is advisable to consult your doctor for further investigation and support.