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In general, 7 1/2 to 8 1/2 hours of sleep at night are enough for most people. If you're getting that much sleep and are still tired, however, it's probably time to evaluate the quality of your sleep. Consider these questions:
- Is your sleep/wake schedule consistent with a set bedtime and awakening time everyday?
- Do you have good sleep hygiene?
- Do you have an undiagnosed sleep disorder that needs to be treated?
If you aren't getting enough quality sleep, you'll typically become tired around 4:00 p.m. Your body's daily rhythm does this naturally around 6 a.m. and 4 p.m., which (not coincidentally) is the time most car crashes occur as people fall asleep at the wheel.
Most people can judge if they are getting enough sleep by how they feel. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that individuals ask themselves the following questions when it comes to their sleeping habits:
- Are you productive, healthy and happy on seven hours of sleep? Or does it take you nine hours of quality sleep to get you into high gear?
- Do you have health issues such as being overweight? Are you at risk for any disease?
- Are you experiencing sleep problems?
- Do you depend on caffeine to get you through the day?
- Do you feel sleepy when driving?
Sleep diagnostic centers can help patients diagnosed with sleep disorders, such as insomnia and sleep apnea. But many people who don’t get enough sleep may not suffer from these conditions. Nonetheless, their disrupted circadian clocks can contribute to a range of serious health issues, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, headaches and depression. The body’s internal circadian clocks regulate the timing of periods of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day.
The big problem happens when people push themselves by cutting back on their sleep. They have busy jobs or want to spend more time with family. The one thing that they think they can give up is sleep. But there is a price to pay for getting by on six hours of sleep or less. It's just not healthy.
One way to check if you are getting quality sleep is to have a family member or someone you trust keep watch while you're sleeping.
Go to bed first. After an hour or so, your friend should also go to bed, but in a place he or she can keep an eye on you and hear you. You may want to put bells on the doors to the bedroom and bathroom, so you make noise if you get up.
What did you learn? Do you snore? Do you talk in your sleep? Do you thrash around? Do you get up in the night? How often? Even if you experience only some of these symptoms and you're fatigued during the day, call your doctor and ask for a professional sleep study.
Nearly 10% of people in the United States experience chronic insomnia. If you don’t feel refreshed after a typical night’s sleep and are sluggish during the day, you’re probably not getting sufficient sleep, says Frisca Yan-Go, MD, a neurologist in UCLA’s Sleep Disorders Center.
If you awake feeling refreshed and ready to meet the day each morning and you do not experience any daytime sleepiness (without the use of substances to keep you awake i.e., caffeine), you are likely experiencing enough sleep.
Individual requirements for sleep vary but ideally, 7-8 hours a night is recommended. Signs of not having enough sleep include daytime tiredness, poor concentration, and mood changes. Napping during the day can also be a sign that night-time sleep is insufficient. Often times, these symptoms can be masked with caffeinated drinks or eventual habituation that their symptoms are the norm. Improving sleep hygiene by optimizing night time and sleep habits can improve the quality and quantity of sleep. Frequent awakenings at night can be a sign of a more serious health problem and a consultation with your physician would be recommended.
Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.