How we sleep sets us up for the day ahead. If we’ve slept well, i.e. nodded off within 30 minutes of our head touching the pillow and had between seven and nine hours’ largely uninterrupted sleep,1
then we tend to feel sprightlier the next day.
But we’ve not slept particularly well, i.e. it takes you forever to drop off, you wake up frequently throughout the night and don’t get your seven to nine hours quota of sleep,2
then you may not feel like you’re necessarily firing on all cylinders.3
According to the NHS, one in three people fall into the bad sleep category, with stress levels, computers and work being named as some of the main sleep disrupters.3
Poor sleep can, other than feeling grumpy and shattered, not sleeping very well on a regular basis can lead to obesity, heart disease and diabetes.4
How much ZZZZs do you need?
Generally speaking, the recommendation is between seven to nine hours. But how much sleep you, as an individual, actually needs, depends on how old you are.
For instance, teenagers tend to need more sleep than adults. Children also need a fair few hours to help power their on-going growth and development.
Sleep recommendations - by age group
|Newborn to 3 months
||14 to 17
||Sleep is crucial for new-borns’ physical and psychological growth5
|Four to 11 months
||12 to 15
|One to two years
||11 to 14
|Three to five
||10 to 13
|Six to 13
||9 to 11
|14 to 17
||8 to 10
||Teenagers need plenty of sleep because the adolescent years are when they experience significant physical, emotional, intellectual maturity6
|18 to 25
||7 to 9
||Sleep can boost students’ thinking and creativity7
|26 to 64
||7 to 9
||7 to 8
This guidance has been produced by the National Sleep Foundation8
and acts as a good general rule of thumb. Not everybody within the same age group needs exactly
the same amount of sleep as everybody else their age.
One of the best ways to establish if you need some more shut eye or not is to listen to your body. If you feel energetic from the moment you wake up until the time you go to bed again, then it sounds as though you’re getting enough sleep. If you’re not, then you may need to go to bed for a few more hours each night.9
6 health benefits of good sleep
You’d be amazing that just one action, sleep, can impact our bodies in so many ways. Health and good sleep go hand-in-hand for lots of reasons.
The health benefits of getting enough sleep, include:
1. Better concentration
Getting enough sleep can make you feel more alert and awake and therefore better able to focus on tasks and making decisions. If you don’t have enough sleep, then your body and brain can feel tired and it can be difficult to concentrate.10
2. Stronger immune system
When you sleep, your body repairs and recharges itself. Sleep is also responsible for supporting your immune system cells and making them more energised and better able to fight off any bugs and germs.11
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation has officially classed night shift work as potentially causing cancer because it interferes with our circadian rhythm, AKA our body clock.12
3. Less stress
When we’re feeling stressed, our body releases the stress hormone, cortisol, which can keep us awake at night. But if we sleep well, our body feels more relaxed and is less likely to give off as much cortisol.13
4. Healthier weight
Sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same areas of our brain. So when we feel tired, certain hormones (e.g. cortisol) increase in our blood and we tend to feel hungrier. Interestingly, a study by the University of Chicago found that dieters who were well rested lost more fat—56% of their weight loss—than those who were sleep deprived; they lost more muscle mass instead.14
5. Less inflammation
Sleep loss has been linked to long-term inflammation of the digestive tract, which is linked to inflammatory bowel disease. According to one study in particular, sleep-deprived people with Crohn’s disease were twice as likely to relapse as patients who slept well.15
6. Reduced anxiety and depression
Research has found that lack of sleep can negatively impact people’s mood. According to a study by the University of Pennsylvania, people who had just 4.5 hours sleep a night for a week felt more stressed, angry, sad and mentally exhausted.16
For more on the link between sleep and anxiety, read ‘How to sleep better if you have anxiety
Sleep can benefit our health in so many different ways, those listed above are just the start.
Looking forward to getting a good night’s sleep? This article will help 10 expert tips to help you sleep better
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Last updated: 8 September 2020