How much sleep do we really need?

The amount of sleep an individual needs can vary greatly depending on their phase of life and unique makeup, but generally speaking a healthy adult requires between seven and nine hours of quality sleep per night. Newborns can require up to 17 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period, toddlers between 10 and 14, primary school child between 8 and 12 hours and an adolescent around 10 hours sleep a night.

Is there such a thing as too much sleep?

Believe it or not, yes. Just like insufficient sleep, oversleeping can be a sign of disordered sleep and can sometimes be connected to a mental or physical health issue. Excessive sleeping may be an indicator of depression, or may be a signal that an individual is experiencing poor sleep quality. In extreme cases oversleeping can be a sign of a clinical sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea or narcolepsy.

Is it ok to sleep less through the week and then make up for it by sleeping longer on weekends or holidays? All of us have indulged in the luxury of an all-of-Sunday morning sleep in after the occasional big week or a late night out. That happens to everyone, once in a while. But if you intend to manage your sleep carefully as part of your overall wellness program then you shouldn’t allow this to happen too often. Generally all adults should aim to sleep from 10.30pm to 6am every day, even on weekends.

How does poor sleep impact on us physically and psychologically?

Getting too little sleep has a significant impact on health, quality of life and life expectancy. It can cause depression, weight gain and increase the risk of stroke and diabetes and other health issues. “If you sleep well you can avoid many health issues, even dementia,” says sleep expert Cheryl Fingleson of The Sleep Coach. “If you deprive someone of as little as two hours sleep a night, their cognitive functions become significantly impaired almost immediately. Research has shown that sleep deficiency can have the same impact as alcohol impairment.”

Can you suggest a good pre-bed routine to maximise quality and quantity of sleep?

Cheryl Fingleson’s top tips to tired clients are to establish and maintain a regular bedtime routine. “To me, this is possibly the single most important factor in a healthy lifestyle,” she said. “Your body needs clear prompts to wind down at night, and establishing a platform for a good night’s sleep has almost unlimited wellness benefits.” “Healthy, regular meals are a great balancer,” she continued. “Not exercising close to bed-time, and not consuming caffeine after mid-day is also recommended. Try turning off all screens an hour before bedtime and climbing into a clean, well-made bed. Choose a set bedtime, and honour it every night. Other relaxation tools might include quiet baths, essential oils, massage, meditation and reading. It doesn’t matter which of these you choose to do, or what order you do them in, what matters is that you find a routine that works for you,” Fingleson said.

If someone wanted to include some self-care steps such as having a bath/shower or even just washing and moisturizing their face, when is a good time to do this?

“Self-care is critical for an individual to remain healthy and functioning in these modern times, after all you can’t pour from an empty cup. If your self-care routine of choice is a calming practice, such as moisturizing, reading, bathing or conversing with loved ones then these make wonderful inclusions in evening routines. More upbeat self-care practices like exercise, treat meals, parties or screens are best left for earlier times of day.” “It is imperative that adults, children and teenagers all get the right amount of sleep,”Fingleson concluded. “Sleep is vital for growth, development, health and happiness. I always advise my clients’ to take control of their sleep routine regardless of their age or circumstances. It’s not worth deferring, as sleep loss and poor routine has been proven to have significant impacts on the health and wellbeing. There are plenty of tools available to improve sleep and settling. And if parents can’t do it alone, there is professional help on hand too. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!”

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