How much sleep is “enough”? Does everyone really need 8 hours of sleep? Is having less a sign that you’re sleep deprived? These are questions I’ve often asked myself. Find out the answers from researcher Mary Lee in this guest post. I learned that skimping on sleep can put you at risk for high blood pressure – ack!
As women, we are often expected to do so much with so little time. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all of the things you have to get done and can’t seem to find the time to do it all, you may be tempted to skimp out on sleep. It happens — but it shouldn’t.
When you’re sleep deprived, you’re not in a good place to give anything your best effort. Your cognitive function, mood, and concentration decline. You feel generally sluggish, and are more likely to make mistakes. You might even doze off in the middle of an important activity. Not to mention you’re at a greater risk for chronic conditions including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes when you’re sleep deprived on a regular basis.
When you lead a busy lifestyle, you might think you can save a little time with fewer hours of sleep at night. But that’s a huge mistake: sleep is the last thing you should skimp on. You need it to face each day fresh and ready to do what must be done. Plus, being short on sleep puts you at risk for high blood pressure.
How Much Sleep You Really Need
If sleep is essential (and it is), you need to make sure you’re getting enough of it. Common knowledge tells us that 8 hours of sleep is necessary for adults. That’s more or less accurate, and if you’re shooting for eight hours of sleep each night, you’ll at least be in the ballpark for your sleep needs. But how much sleep you actually need can depend on a variety of factors including hormonal changes, mental health, physical activity, and suffering from sleep disorders.
For most women, 7-9 hours of sleep each night will be sufficient. So again, 8 hours of sleep is right in the middle and likely to meet your needs. Some women need more; some need less. You might need more if you’re pregnant or going through other hormonal changes such as menopause. Other reasons you might need more sleep include going through heavy athletic training, suffering from depression, or suffering from a sleep disorder that lessens the quality or quantity of your sleep.
How to Know if You Need More (or Less) Sleep
Getting enough sleep isn’t an exact science, and you may need more sleep one night than another depending on your activities during the day, how much sleep you got the night before, naps, and other factors. Consider these factors to find out if you’re getting the sleep you need each night:
- You feel like a wreck in the morning. When you wake up, do you have to hit your snooze button multiple times, or drag yourself out of bed? You may even need help from devices or gadgets, such as your phone, an alarm clock, or bright light. You’re probably not getting enough sleep as someone who can wake up right away.
- You can’t live without coffee. Caffeine addiction is real, and it’s common among women who don’t sleep enough. If you feel you can’t function in the morning until you’ve had coffee, you might try sleeping more. Be sure to steer clear of coffee after 3 p.m., as it can leave you too wired to sleep well.
- You fall asleep right away. It may be convenient to fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow, but it could mean you’re sleep deprived. Exhaustion might be why you’re ready to sleep immediately.
- You wake up before your alarm. Perhaps you’re not getting enough (and possibly too much) sleep if you wake up before your alarm. Waking independently is a sign that you’ve gotten enough sleep.
- You’re experiencing physical symptoms of sleep deprivation. If you’re chronically short on sleep, you’re at a greater risk for high blood pressure, weakened immunity, diabetes, and obesity. If you’re experiencing these symptoms and sleeping less than seven hours each night, it may not be a coincidence. Other trouble signs include memory issues, mood changes, and trouble concentrating during the day.
Enough Sleep for Good Health
Getting the right amount of sleep is key to maintaining good physical and mental health. Prevent high blood pressure! It’s common for women not to get enough sleep, and although not everyone needs exactly 8 hours of sleep each night, 8 is a good goal to shoot for. Start with 8 hours and listen to your body to determine whether you need more or less than that to prevent being sleep deprived.
About Today’s Writer
Mary Lee is a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com. She specializes in sleep’s role in mental and physical health and wellness. Mary lives in Olympia, Washington and shares her full-sized bed with a very noisy cat.