When it comes to getting enough sleep, we have a habit of trying to cut corners. Seven or eight hours of sleep may sound ideal, but rarely do we seem to have the time.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, older adults should receive between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. This recommendation only increases amongst teenagers, preschoolers, and toddlers. Yet despite this advice, 45% of Americans say that poor or insufficient sleep has affected their daily lives at least once in the past week.
Getting a good night’s sleep isn’t easy, but it’s crucial. Let’s pull down the sheets to learn more about sleep, why 6 hours of sleep simply isn’t enough, and what we can do to ensure we’re getting the hours of shuteye we need.
The Basics of Sleep
There are four primary stages of sleep to be aware of, and we collectively refer to these stages as the sleep cycle.
The first stage is the lightest stage of sleep and is accompanied by non-rapid eye movement, or NREM. During this stage of drowsy sleep, your eyes will move slowly beneath your eyelids and you can easily be woken. Your muscles will relax and your brain will begin to slow down as your body prepares for a more restful, deep sleep.
The second stage of sleep is the first stage of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. You can’t be woken as easily during this stage of sleep, and your brain will continue to slow down as bursts of brain activity called sleep spindles occur. Research suggests sleep spindles protect the brain from awakening during sleep.
The third stage of sleep is known as deep NREM sleep. This is the most restorative stage of sleep and is marked by slow waves in the brain. Suddenly waking up during this stage of sleep is rare, and sleeping events such as sleepwalking and sleep talking occur during this stage.
The fourth and final stage of sleep is known as REM sleep, and this is where dreaming takes place. Your eyes will move back and forth, and your brain waves will be more active during this stage of sleep than they are in stages two or three. If you’re woken in REM sleep, there’s an increased risk of feeling groggy or overly sleepy the following day.
Ensuring you reach each of these four stages of the sleep cycle is extremely important. One sleep cycle, which will include all four stages of sleep, will often last approximately 100-120 minutes, and you’ll transition through four or five full cycles per night.
For Most Of Us, 6 Hours of Sleep Isn’t Enough
We hate to burst your bubble, but six hours of sleep just isn’t enough for the average individual. While some people do well on only six hours of sleep, most of us would benefit from an extra hour or two of additional rest. Below we’ve included the nine primary sleep groups identified by the National Sleep Foundation, along with their corresponding sleep recommendations.
Newborns should receive between 14 and 17 hours of sleep, though 11 to 13 hours is acceptable as well. Ultimately, newborns shouldn’t sleep less than 11 hours per day.
Infants should also sleep between 14 and 17 hours, with no less than 11 hours of sleep per day.
Toddlers should sleep between 11 and 14 hours each day, though 9 to 10 hours is also appropriate. Toddlers shouldn’t sleep less than 9 hours per day.
Preschoolers should sleep between 10 and 13 hours per day, or 8 to 9 hours per day, but no less than 8 hours per day.
Children should get 9 to 11 hours of sleep generally, but 7 to 8 hours is also acceptable. Children shouldn’t sleep for less than 7 hours per day.
Teens should get 8 to 10 hours of sleep per day, but 7 hours is still acceptable. Teens should sleep no less than 7 hours per day.
Young adults should get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per day, but 6 hours is also appropriate in a pinch. They shouldn’t get less than 6 hours of sleep in a day.
Adults should get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per day, though 6 to 10 hours is still appropriate. Much like young adults, adults shouldn’t get less than 6 hours of sleep per day.
Older adults should get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, although 5 to 6 hours is appropriate given their age. They should not, however, get less than five hours of sleep.
Is 6 Hours of Sleep Enough for You?
While 6 hours of sleep isn’t enough for most of us, there are signs you can watch for to determine if 6 hours of sleep is enough for you. For instance, yawning, fatigue, and irritability are telltale signs that you’re simply not getting enough sleep.
Other symptoms of tiredness or sleep loss include a lack of motivation, clumsiness, and increased appetite. If you’re sleeping for six hours or less per night while experiencing these symptoms, you’ll need to increase the amount of sleep you’re getting to reflect nightly recommendations for your age, or you’ll need to find ways to improve upon your quality of sleep.
Why Aren’t You Getting Enough Sleep?
Poor sleep or a lack of sleep can often be attributed to a number of factors. From taking sleep for granted to consuming caffeine before bed, sleep problems are widespread. Below you’ll find the common reasons people don’t get enough sleep.
Stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol, and even sleeping tablets can interfere with your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. While substances like alcohol may evoke the feeling of sleepiness, in reality, your sleep will be very restless. Sleeping tablets, on the other hand, are okay to use occasionally but these become less impactful over time, and you may become dependent on them to fall asleep.
Those who work changing shifts have a more difficult time establishing a routine sleep pattern. While some adjust to these changes better than others, shift work can influence your circadian rhythm and drastically reduce the amount of sleep you should be receiving.
Eating & Drinking Late
While eating before bed won’t directly impact the quality of your sleep, it can cause heartburn or chest discomfort that can keep you up at night. As a result, it’s best to avoid any late night snacks before bedtime. If you’re hungry, eat something small and drink a glass of water. Research indicates that fluids before bed can be beneficial.
Stress keeps us up at night and disrupts our sleep schedule. But our mental health is important, and we deserve to sleep soundly without waking in the middle of the night. Give yourself a chance to relax and unwind before bed if stress is stopping you from getting quality sleep, or speak with your doctor to find techniques for coping with stress.
Sleep disorders are one of the most common reasons we suffer from sleep deprivation. Sleep apnea, night terrors, insomnia, and more can influence our sleep habits for days or even years at a time. If you suffer from a chronic sleep disorder that stops you from receiving a good night’s sleep, consider talking to your doctor to determine what you can do to get back to bed.
Healthy Habits to Develop When You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep
Our body’s circadian rhythm is always telling us when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to rise and shine. But this internal rhythm can be disrupted, leaving us to deal with the negative consequences of poor sleep. With this in mind, here are some tips on how to correct your sleep patterns so that falling asleep becomes a breeze.
Follow a Sleep Schedule
It may seem like a no-brainer, but your body prefers a sleep schedule that allows you to fall asleep and wake at the same time each day. This can also reduce your risk of heart disease, which sleep deprivation can increase your risk of developing.
Watch What You Eat
While eating before bed isn’t unhealthy in itself, the foods you eat can directly influence how well you sleep at night. Avoid heavy meals close to bedtime and keep the snacking light. Drinking water before bed is healthy, but too much fluid can result in frequent bathroom trips that negatively impact your sleep duration.
Avoid Bedtime Distractions
Bedtime distractions such as screens, bright lights, and heavy music can stop you from getting better sleep. Consider turning off your phone, dimming the lights, and reading a book before bed to get your mind in the sleeping mood. A healthy bedtime routine that’s free of distractions will put your head in the right place before it hits the pillow.
Though sleep medicine isn’t recommended for everyone, certain individuals may require sleep medications that promote drowsiness and sleep. If you find yourself suffering from a lack of sleep on a consistent basis, talk to your doctor to determine if sleep medicine is the right avenue for you.
So, Is Six Hours of Sleep Enough?
At the end of the day, six hours of sleep isn’t really enough for the average person. While we all know someone that functions well on less sleep, the side effects that come with a lack of sleep such as weight gain and compromised cognitive performance are reason enough to ensure you’re getting your recommended amount of sleep. While getting the sleep your body craves can be difficult, every hour of sleep you get makes an impact on your overall health.