Sleep: A common sense cure Part II – How much is enough sleep for me?

If you feel refreshed when you wake up on your own (without an alarm clock), you’ve had ‘enough sleep.’ Your body has been able to do the sleep jobs we learned about in Part I. Now, my Common Sense says that since we’re all individuals – your answer to ‘how much is enough sleep?’ is likely to be somewhat different from mine. However, since we are all human beings, the differences won’t be really major.

Average Sleep Hours Vary

Some differences in sleep needs are age-related. Everybody knows that babies need a lot of sleep – newborns may sleep as much as 20 out of the 24 hours. Scientific studies suggest that as children grow up they gradually require less sleep.  Infants may need around 15 hours a day. Older school children probably need only around 10-11 hours a day as an average. And adolescents still need an average of over 9 hours a day.

The general recommendation for adults is that they should get 7.5-8.5 hours of sleep per night. But, as an average, this is certainly not a good fit for everyone. Sleep experts today suggest that genetics may contribute to some adults needing longer sleep times and others being able to stay healthy with significantly shorter ones.

Common Sense says to me that sleep needs can be expected to be longer when you are sick or stressed. It may be ‘just a cold’ or a more long-term disease process, the stress of employment demands or a major life change. Your body needs extra time to deal with fighting the intruders and repairing damaged tissues. Your mind needs extra time for recouping the energy depletion caused by stress, and letting non-conscious problem-solving work for you.

On the other hand, those who are in good health and enjoying a comfortable life style or the elderly who no longer have children at home or participate in regular employment can expect to need less sleep time.

How to find your ideal hours of sleep

Here’s an easy way to determine how much is enough sleep for you:

  1. Plan for a couple of weeks when you can keep to a regular bedtime.
  2. Select a bedtime and stick with it every night. Make it early enough that you know you’ll be able to get up in time for any commitments without an alarm clock.
  3. Allow yourself to sleep in as long as you want, awakening without an alarm clock in the morning.
  4. After a few days, you will have paid off your sleep debt. As you keep track of how much you sleep each night, you’ll be able to see what the average amount of sleep that you need is.

How to actually get your ideal hours of sleep.

Now you know how much you need, keep up with it by getting to bed at an appropriate time so you can get up for the next day’s activities. If you have had trouble going to sleep when you get into bed, here are some good tips:

  1. Keep a pretty consistent sleep and wake schedule, even on weekends
  2. Make your bedroom a comfortable sleeping area – dark, quiet, comfortable and cool
  3. Finish eating at least 2-3 hours before bedtime
  4. Exercise regularly during the day, but not closer than a few hours before bedtime
  5. Avoid caffeine and alcohol products close to bedtime and give up smoking
  6. Create a regular, relaxing bedtime routine for an hour or so before you need to be asleep – like soaking in a hot bath or listening to soothing music.
  7. Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex – no TV, computer work or reading in bed.
  8. Make it a priority. Sleep can’t be the thing you do only after everything else is done.  Make it a personal appointment and stop doing other things so you get the sleep you need.

This is just common sense, after all. Your sleep time is your own natural, personalized medication to help your body heal itself and stay healthy – physically, mentally, and spiritually.