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How much sleep do you actually need?

If you’re experiencing the common symptoms of insomnia, or are simply having trouble sleeping but aren’t sure if it’s really a cause for concern, you aren’t alone. Most people don’t know how much sleep is right for them. While it’s a well-established fact that sleep needs vary depending upon gender, age, and other criteria, there are also new findings revealing that the needs of certain groups have grown or changed.

Let’s take a minute to reflect on what we know about sleep, such as sleep cycles, stages of REM sleep, and what we can do to achieve deeper sleep for rejuvenation and healing. Then, we will take a look at some of the latest studies to see what has changed.

How much sleep do we need, according to age?

According to a study by the National Sleep Foundation published in Sleep Health: The Journal of the National Sleep Foundation, the sleeping hours a person requires decreases with age from 14 to 17 hours for newborns to 8 to 10 hours for teenagers and seven to eight hours for older adults.

Yet, some folks found that even though they got enough sleep according to this list, they still felt tired during the day and couldn’t focus. That may be due to missing deeper stages of sleep, particularly a sleep stage known as REM sleep, which is known for its rejuvenating effects.

The sleep cycle

We go through cycles of sleep repeatedly as we sleep through the night, with the first cycle taking about 90 minutes to complete and subsequent cycles taking less time as the night goes on.

Although the REM stage only comprises about 10% to 20% of our time spent sleeping, it’s known as being responsible for boosting the immune system, rejuvenating our body’s cells, and overall healing — so, it’s absolutely essential we reach that stage in order to be healthy.

How much sleep do women and children need?

Women and children appear to have greater difficulties related to sleep, according to the results of recent studies.

The children’s study

Recent studies in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry by University of Houston professor Candice Alfano have indicated that missing a few hours of sleep at night can cause problems in a child’s emotional health.

Alfano, who runs the Sleep and Anxiety Center of Houston, Texas, noted that when their sleep was inadequate at night, children’s emotional health suffered in a number of ways during the daytime hours. For example, the children experienced very pronounced difficulty with healthy social interactions, effective coping strategies, and positive social interactions.

What was most important to note in this study was the fact that the children were not all the same across the board. The ones who suffered the most from the restricted sleep patterns implemented were those who already had preexisting anxiety symptoms. These children demonstrated the highest level of difficulty socially and with coping following the nights of less sleep.

Alfano explains, “The experience and expression of positive emotions are essential for children’s friendships, healthy social interactions, and effective coping. Our findings might explain why children who sleep less on average have more peer-related problems.”

The women’s study

Misdiagnosed early in life as simply depressed, now 71-year-old Sarah Gorman is finally receiving the health care she needed in her 20s. Having stumbled upon a sleep laboratory, she was observed and found out she suffers from a disorder most commonly attributed to men: Sleep apnea. From there, she was prescribed a CPAP machine that allowed her to sleep the whole night for the first time in decades.

The findings of this study reveal that although women do have sleep apnea after menopause in rates comparable to men, the symptoms are often overlooked, as they’re not identical to men’s symptoms. The study’s authors hope that this information will cause physicians to pay closer attention to their female patients’s symptoms and assess whether it could mean they also have sleep apnea. Additionally, there are new treatments being evaluated that may be more beneficial to women.

How can we get better and deeper sleep?

We touched on a number of ways to do this, including decreasing caffeine and alcohol later in the day, drinking tart cherry juice, keeping the bedroom cooler, powering off all devices 30 minutes prior to bedtime, and more.

If you’re looking for ways to improve your bedroom experience, some sleeping apps encourage better sleep. Also, you might want to purchase the right mattress and choose the right pillows for your preferred sleeping position. So, what is different or new now, and what do we need to consider for the optimal sleep experience? What are the latest studies saying, and who needs to pay attention?

As we continue to follow the latest developments in sleep, we hope to provide a helpful community with useful advice for everyone. This starts, as always, with a call to your doctor to make sure your symptoms are being assessed by a medical professional. We hope you’ll be sleeping like a baby in no time!

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