Experts say that most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night. However, they also say that individual sleep needs vary, sometimes widely. This leaves many of us with a lot of questions. We know that we aren’t getting enough sleep because we’re tired all the time. However, we don’t know exactly how much sleep we need, and we don’t know how to find out.
Figuring Out Your Ideal Sleep Duration
Many things factor in when determining how much sleep you need. Everybody has a slightly different innate need for sleep, for instance. Some bodies just require more rest than others! On top of that, factors like your age, how much and how often you exercise, whether your body is fighting illness or dealing with a chronic problem, whether or not you’re pregnant, and more all work to determine how much sleep you need.
As if that weren’t enough, many people are carrying some sleep debt. When you don’t get enough rest for a while, your body craves more sleep than it might otherwise want, simply because you haven’t given it the rest it needs.
Things like caffeine consumption and the prevalence of blue lights also work to disturb our natural rhythms. We may not feel tired when we should, or we may not be able to sleep even though we’re exhausted.
Even with all of this going on, though, it’s possible to determine how much sleep you need. Here’s the process.
- Start where you are. Determine how much sleep you’re getting every night.
- Go to sleep 15 minutes earlier every 2-3 nights, until you’re getting at least 7 hours of sleep every, single night.
- When you hit 7 hours, see how you feel. If you’re tired during the day or you’re not ready to wake up when your alarm goes off, move your bedtime back 15 more minutes.
- Continue this process until you are getting enough sleep every night. You’ll probably end up somewhere between 7 and 9 hours, but listen to your body and follow its needs.
Keep in mind that this only determines how much sleep you need right now. If something changes in your life, your sleep needs could change, too. Or, as you become more and more rested, you may find that you need less sleep. In this case, your body was paying back its sleep debt and has found its equilibrium again.
Signs that You’re Getting Enough Sleep
As you go through the process above, you’ll want to know how to evaluate your own sleep needs. These will help you know when you’ve hit your ideal bedtime and determined how much sleep you need.
How You Feel
Do you feel tired during the day? Or do you drink so much caffeine to numb your tiredness that you can’t fall asleep when you finally have the chance? In order to decide how much sleep you need, it’s important to note how your body functions and feels throughout the day.
It helps to write these things down. Note how much sleep you got, how you felt upon waking, whether you needed your alarm clock, etc. Then, keep track of how you feel during the day. Do you yawn a lot? Do you find yourself nodding off in your cubicle? Make note of anything that could pertain to your sleep.
Make notes, too, about how your body is doing. If you’re hungry all the time or you’re especially craving carbohydrates and sugar, your body may be trying to find extra energy because it didn’t get enough sleep. If you’re too tired to exercise, write that down. At the end of the day, look at your journal and use it to help you decide if you’re rested or not.
How You Wake Up and Fall Asleep
You should wake up ready to take on your day. You may or may not wake up a little bit before your alarm, but if you do so it can be a sign that you’re getting enough rest.
On the other side, you should fall asleep 20-30 minutes after you lie down. Any sooner than that, and you’re probably too tired. Any longer than that, and you may be getting too much sleep. To determine that, though, you need to rule out anything else that could keep you awake. Anxiety, caffeine overconsumption, and sleep disorders could make finding sleep hard.
When you’re getting enough sleep, the world will seem like a better place. Your body will function better, you’ll have more energy, and you’ll be able to go after things that you’ve been putting off or have felt too tired to pursue. It may seem like a lot of work, but it’s worth the effort you’ll have to put into figuring out exactly how much sleep you need to thrive.