The Million-Dollar Question: "How Much Sleep Do I Need?"
Based on the 2013 International Bedroom Poll by the National Sleep Foundation, 25 percent of Americans report having to cut down on sleep due to long workdays. On average, Americans get only 6.5 hours of sleep on weeknights, although 7.25 hours is needed in order to function optimally. Canadians fare slightly better in this regard. On average, Canadians get just over seven hours of sleep per night.
Sleep is imperative for physical and mental health. Remember, cutting back on even just a few hours of sleep every night can have serious, far-reaching effects on your health.
As a general rule, children, especially infants, need significantly more sleep than adults. Sleep experts recommend the following for different age groups:
- Toddlers (1 to 3 years old ) – 2 to 14 hours a night
- Preschoolers (3 to 5 years old) – 11 to 13 hours a night
- School-aged children (up to 12 years old) – 10 to 11 hours a night
- Teenagers – About 9 hours a night
Use your child’s mood as an indicator to determine if he or she is getting enough sleep. Excessive fussiness, irritability, crying, or tantrums are often linked to lack of sleep. Frequent yawning throughout the day is another dead giveaway that your child may need more snooze time.
How Much Do Newborns Sleep?
Babies do not have regular sleep cycles until they’re about 6 months old. While newborns sleep about 16 to 17 hours per day, they may only sleep for 1 or 2 hours at a time. As babies get older, they need less sleep. However, different babies have different sleep needs. It is normal for a 6-month-old to wake up during the night, and to go back to sleep after a few minutes.
To ensure your baby will always get a good night’s sleep, I advise you to follow these safe sleeping habits:
- Let your baby sleep on his/her back at night or even during nap time to avoid chances of accidentally rolling onto his/her stomach.
- Remove toys or pacifiers with strings or cords from your baby’s crib or sleeping area to prevent risks of choking or strangulation.
- Make sure the room’s temperature is not too hot or too cold for your baby (preferably somewhere around 70 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Keep your baby’s sleeping area smoke-free at all times.
- Shelter your baby from exposure to toxins by using only organic beddings and mattresses free from harmful chemicals and chemical flame retardants. These dangerous compounds can also be found in nursing pillows, car seats, changing table pads, high chairs, strollers, portable cribs, sleeping wedges, walkers, and other baby care products.
How Much Sleep Is Too Much?
Too much of something can be bad for you. While there are a lot of Americans who lack sleep, there are also some who may be sleeping more than they should – a habit that can also have negative effects on your health.
In one study, researchers revealed that people in their 60s and 70s who sleep nine hours or more each night have a more rapid decline in their cognitive function than those who sleep between six and eight hours. Surprisingly, the long sleepers (9 hours or more) comprised a large portion (40 percent) of the 2,700 study participants. Another 49 percent were considered normal sleepers (6 to 8 hours), while 11 percent slept just five hours or less.
To find out if you’re getting enough sleep, observe how long it takes you to fall asleep. If you fall asleep within a few minutes of your head hitting the pillow, chances are you’re most likely sleep deprived. A well-rested person, on the other hand, will take about 10-15 minutes to fall asleep at night.
5 Simple Secrets to a Sound and Restful Sleep
If you’ve been tossing and turning in bed and have been experiencing some difficulty sleeping at night, I recommend giving these simple lifestyle changes a try:
- Stop watching television or using any of your electronic gadgets at least an hour before going to bed. The blue light from these devices tricks your brain into thinking it's still daytime and messes up your circadian rhythm.
- Do not eat a heavy meal or spicy foods close to bedtime.
- Take note of key factors that disrupt your body’s healthy melatonin production. These include electromagnetic field (EMF) sources and too much light in your bedroom. Switch off Wi-Fi devices and remove all electronics from your room. You can also wear an eye mask or turn off all the lights so you can sleep in total darkness.
- Keep the temperature in your bedroom at 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius). According to studies, the optimal room temperature for sleep is quite cool, between 60 to 68 degrees F (15.5 to 20 degrees C). However, keeping your room cooler or hotter than that range can lead to restless sleep.
- Make sure your pillows and mattresses are made from wholesome organic materials that do not contain harsh substances like chemical flame retardants. Studies have shown that flame retardants have numerous side effects, especially in children. In fact, approximately 90 percent of Americans have some level of flame retardant chemicals in their bodies.
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