As a follow up to last week’s post on sleep hygiene, it’s also worth considering how many hours of sleep your body typically needs. This information can help you set ideal bedtimes and realistic plans on when to get up.
The National Sleep Foundation recently came out with some general recommendations based on age groups. Find a summary here and the detailed article here. As you can see from the summary, requirements will vary from person to person. It will also likely vary depending on the exertion level from your day’s activities and your quality of rest over the past several days. Sleep requirements also appear to decrease as you age. Teenagers can easily sleep ten hours while patients in their 70s or above frequently report less than seven hours of sleep.
The range of recommended durations can be wide even in the same age bracket. You can however estimate your own personal needs - it’s easy to do on your own and requires no special equipment. The steps that I personally recommend are as follows:
- Find a ~2 week block of time when you have good control of your bedtime and when you can wake up. This is probably the hardest part.
- Set an arbitrary bedtime for that 2 week block.
- Let your body wake up when it chooses to. No alarms.
- Record when you wake up over the 2 weeks.
- Assuming no major changes in your life over that 2 week span, the average number of hours you sleep in the last few days of your 2 week block is probably a rough estimate of your requirements.
Hopefully the combination of better sleep hygiene and an understanding of how much sleep you actually need forms a good foundation for getting a decent night’s rest. As always, if you have more questions, feel free to talk to your Magenta Health family doctor.