Is Sleep Overrated?

Are you getting less sleep than you need believing it’s normal?

Sleep – that oft times elusive commodity – can make or break your day, depending on how many hours you managed to garner. For some people who get little sleep and have to perform high demand tasks day after day, the common comment heard is this: “Sleep? It’s Over-rated”.

But is it?

After all, most of us are very aware of the eight to ten hours of sleep priority and we know that a good night’s sleep is really important – but few of us ever experience it consistently. The phenomenon of “sleep debt” has left many people with a hazy memory of what being truly rested feels like. And, just to make matters a little more interesting, the myriad interferences to our circadian rhythm caused by stimulants like coffee, alarm clocks, lights (including our devices) compound the situation.

It is true, though, that lifestyle and health impact individuals’ sleep needs. In order to know how much sleep you need, you’ll need to know where you fall on the “sleep needs spectrum” as well as check out what factors inherent in your lifestyle affect the amount and quality of your less – that would include your work schedule, stress levels, diet and exercise.

So, How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?

I spent some time at sleepfoundation.org where I happened upon their recommended sleep times chart, which you can access here: https://sleepfoundation.org/sites/default/files/STREPchanges_1.png
According to their site, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how much sleep people need specifically, but they’ve created the above chart that indicates minimum and maximum ranges for health along with “recommended” windows of time – general rules that have been agreed upon by experts.
They do suggest that before you can find the number that most closely relates to your particular sleep needs, it’s important to assess how different amounts of sleep affect you. Below is their set of questions to ask yourself before you check the chart:

  • Are you productive, healthy and happy on seven hours of sleep? Or does it take you nine hours of quality ZZZs 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?

Improve your health by making sleep a Priority

How do you make sleep a priority? Well, first of all you have to assess your own particular needs and habits around sleep. Observe how you respond to various amounts of sleep. If you’ve had a poor night’s sleep, check in with your mood and energy levels then compare them to times when you’ve had a great night’s sleep. A good question to ask is, “How frequently do I actually get a good night’s sleep?”

There are a few tips given by the Sleep Foundation that can help you achieve better sleep:

  • Stick to a sleep schedule, even on weekends.
  • Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual.
  • Exercise daily.
  • Evaluate your bedroom to ensure ideal temperature, sound and light.
  • Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  • Beware of hidden sleep stealers, like alcohol and caffeine.
  • Turn off electronics before bed.

The most important take-away is to make sleep a priority. Schedule it the same way you’d schedule any other activity; put it on your “to-do list” and be sure to cross it off at night. Don’t make sleep an afterthought, something you get around to when everything else is taken care of. Stop the activities in order to get the sleep you need. You might even find you enjoy life more.