A bad night’s sleep might not seem like a big deal, but over time sleep deprivation can spell disaster for your health
Sleep is one of the main pillars of our health and wellbeing. If you’re following a healthy diet and exercising every day, but not getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night, you might be undermining all your other efforts.
Making sleep a priority is essential for your health, and when we don’t get enough sleep, it doesn’t take long for the symptoms to start showing themselves. From short term irritability to long term health vulnerability, there are numerous side effective of poor sleep.
We’re going to take a closer look at sleep, exploring how much sleep you need, the side effects of poor sleep, and the steps you need to take to improve your sleep quality.
How much sleep do you need?
We all feel better after enjoying a good night’s sleep. Even if you’re able to power through, operating on zero energy is never pleasant, but it can be difficult to know how much sleep is the right amount.
Thankfully, the National Sleep Foundation has broken down optimum sleep times for nine age-specific categories, based on two years of extensive research.
- Newborns (0 to 3 months): 14 – 17 hours
- Infants (4 to 11 months): 12 – 15 hours
- Toddlers (1 to 2 years): 11 – 14 hours
- Preschool children (3 to 5 years): 10 – 13 hours
- School-age children (6 to 13 years): 9 – 11 hours
- Teenagers (14 to 17 years): 8 – 10 hours
- Young Adults (18 to 25 years): 7 – 9 hours
- Adults (26 to 64 years): 7 – 9 hours
- Older adults (65+ years): 7 – 8 hours
Aiming for at least 7 hours of high quality sleep per night is a great way to improve and support your overall health and wellbeing.
What happens when you don’t get enough sleep?
When we don’t get enough sleep, it can wreak havoc on our health. Some of the short term consequences of poor sleep include:
- Lack of alertness, making it more difficult to focus or retain information
- Tiredness, making you feel exhausted during the day
- Memory problems, impacting your ability to think, remember and process information
- Quality of life problems, as you are less likely to participate in normal daily activities
- Mood swings, which can in turn impact your relationships
- Increased risk of accidents, including car accidents, falls and other injuries
Chronic poor sleep is also linked to more serious health problems, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure and stroke. It can also make you more likely to suffer from obesity, depression, reduced immune system function and anxiety.
Poor sleep can also impact your sex life, as it is associated with a lower sex drive. It can make you more likely to suffer from sexual health conditions like erectile dysfunction.
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How to improve your sleep habits
Improving your sleep can greatly improve and support your overall health and wellbeing, so try to take steps to prioritise sleep every night. This involves giving yourself a sleep routine that you can stick to every day, getting up and going to sleep at the same time every morning and night.
Spend the hour leading up to bedtime away from screens and smartphones, instead engaging in relaxing activities to help you wind down like reading, stretching, meditation or having a bath. You should also avoid drinking too much alcohol or coffee in the lead up to bedtime.