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How much sleep do you need?

Eat right, move every joint every day, sleep enough

In two previous posts, I’ve talked about eating right and moving every joint as necessary for the maintenance of good health. Today, the topic covers a third component of maintaining good health that once again, most Americans fail to do. We need to sleep enough. Not too little and not too much, but enough.

How sleep is enough for you? I can’t tell you. But I know very few people who can function well on four or five hours of sleep a night. Neither do I know very many people who function well on twelve hours of sleep every night. The average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep as you view the most recent research on the subject.

How much sleep do you need?

So how do you figure out how much sleep you need? I would like to tell you there is a great formula that tells you the magic number, but there’s not. It’s a little bit of trial and error. I’ve found the best way most people discover their best sleep is to try the same number of hours a week at a time and keep a diary of how you function with that number of hours.

sleep, healthA few rules to remember as you go through the process, however. Go to bed at the same time every night. That doesn’t mean 10:00 every night except Friday and Saturday when you stay up until 2:00am. The problem most of us get into with our sleep comes from our failure to follow a routine. When our body knows we will go to bed and get up at about the same time every day, it appreciates it. An occasional late nighter will not kill your pattern, but continuously changing your wake up and bed time will.

As you add or subtract time during your experiment, add or subtract not more than thirty minutes at a time. Then stick with that sleep cycle until you’ve tried it for at least a week. It will take you a few weeks, maybe even a few months to figure out your peak number of hours to sleep, but when you consider you’re setting yourself up to function well for a lifetime, it’s well worth the investment.

Quality is as important as quantity

Equally important, though, is not only the duration of our sleep, but the quality of our sleep. We manage today to go to bed with the television blaring, or earbuds plugged in playing the latest hits, or some other light and noise interference that keeps our bodies from realizing it’s time to shut down and go to sleep. Our bodies build a circadian rhythm based on light and noise levels around us. When we never shut out those two things, we confuse the brain and never give it a chance to shut down and replenish our system.

When you sleep, turn everything off. Don’t leave lights on. Don’t listen to the radio. Don’t watch the television. Don’t have distractions when you go sleep. Only two things happen in bed, one of them is sleep. The other we won’t talk about here. Do all those other things somewhere else and concentrate on sleeping when you go to bed.

Unfortunately, some must work night shifts and must suffer sleeping during the day. Now matter how long one tries to get used to it, it’s never quite the same as sleeping at night. Unless, of course, you practice sleeping at night as describe above with television, radio, flashing lights, and all the other sleep disrupters around you. If you must sleep during the day, I would advise getting the room as dark as possible with room darkening shades or blinds, using an eye mask, and creating white noise to shut out the distractions around you.

What a difference sleep makes!

When you find you’re peak sleep time (for most adults between seven and nine hours), you’ll probably wake up without an alarm clock at that same time every day. You’ll probably have little trouble going to sleep if the follow the rules above. You’ll probably feel better and function better than you have in a long time. Sleep allows your body to recover from the stress and strain of the day. It’s how your body heals from the minor events of the day. You need it!

So there you have it. Three simple things you can do for better health that don’t cost anything, but can make dramatic improvements in your daily health. Eat right, move every joint every day, and sleep enough. Sounds simple doesn’t it. So why do so many Americans do so poorly in all three areas? Let’s start a new fad and just do these three things well to begin a growing trend toward a healthier America.