Sleep, it is now well known, is good for your health, but what are the ideal hours of sleep? There is no universally valid rule, but rather a set of criteria that can help us effectively navigate this issue. Age is certainly an important criterion, as some research shows.
In order to be more active and efficient, not just physically and emotionally, but also psychologically and intellectually, we need to get the right amount of sleep. But quantifying the ideal hours of sleep is not easy, as we will see.
REM and non-REM sleep
Let’s start right away by saying that not all hours of sleep are equal. Research done in the past has been able to establish that there is a REM phase (time when we dream intensely) and a non-REM (time when we rest).
The role of these two phases is unknown, but it is now clear that they are necessary for good health.
REM sleep (short for Rapid Eye Mouvement) is characterized by very rapid movement of the pupils with eyes closed, changes in heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure, with paralysis of voluntary muscles. It is also accompanied by dreams, has multiple cycles (lasting about 15-20 minutes) and becomes more frequent at the end of the night.
Non-REM sleep, on the other hand, may be defined as a kind of interval, during which the body ‘rests’ and the brain recharges.
During REM sleep an increased production of growth hormone (responsible for physical health) happens. On the other hand, during non-REM sleep the blood flow to the brain increases (and that’s essential for our psychic health).
Yes, but then, how many hours are needed to feel better?
Ideal hours of sleep: a Swedish research
According to a Swedish research, published in the journal Sleep, the average ideal hours of sleep is 7 hours 36 for women and 7 hours 48 minutes for men. Outside the 30-45 age group, the situation changes dramatically.
Indeed, it appears that:
- up to the age of 2 years, the daily requirement is 12 hours and 30 minutes (of which 3 are REM sleep)
- up to to 5 years the requirement is 11 hours
- up to 13 years the requirement is of 10 hours
- up to 25 years the requirement is 8 hours
- over 50 years of age the requirement is 6 hours (with 1h and 30′ of REM sleep)
It has also been found that women have a harder time falling asleep, while men tend to wake up a little too early (even more so as the seasons change).
Finally, after age 50, sleep hours decrease by about 27 minutes every 10 years.
Thus, as we age, the duration varies, but not the quality. The resistance to sleep is precisely due to age, as it is often the absence of stimuli that drives sleep. From age 9 to 25, the REM phase remains constant; in fact, it is the actual resting phase that decreases.
Ideal hours of sleep: an American research
According to a recent study by the National Sleep Foundation, however, ideal sleep hours are distributed somewhat differently. Infants from 0 to 3 months, in fact, should sleep 14 to 17 hours, while the elderly over 65, 7 to 8.
- Between 4 and 11 months the recommended duration is 12 to 15 hours
- Between 1 and 2 years the duration is 11-14 hours
- Between 3 and 5 years 10 to 13 hours of sleep is recommended
- Between 6 and 13 years 9 to 11 hours are ideal.
- Between 18 and 25 years it is recommended to sleep from 7 to 9 hours
- Between 26 and 64 years it is necessary to sleep between 7 and 8 hours
Until the age of 14, children should sleep at least 8 hours.
Again, as age advances, the ideal hours of sleep decrease.
The side effects of sleeping too little or too much
Less than 6 and more than 10 hours are, on the other hand, considered inappropriate for adults, as they can cause the same negative consequences to body and psyche. However, it is always important, according to scientists, to know your body.
There are people who are satisfied after 5 hours of sleep, others who do not function unless at least 7 hours have passed. What matters is satisfying one’s essential sleep, that is, the most restful sleep.
In addition, elements or risk factors such as overweight and diseases can alter sleep quality. How to recognize the signs that you have been disturbed in REM phase or deep sleep? The most common signs are:
- Sleepiness during the day.
- Hard to concentrate
- Stress and nervousness
- Prolonged insomnia
The tips for getting a good night’s sleep
To get the best rest, you can follow these simple tips:
- Create a sleep schedule that allows you to always go to bed and wake up at the same time (possibly even on holidays and weekends)
- Reduce smoking and alcohol
- If coffee, tea and other exciting foods cause you problems, avoid consuming them at least 6 hours before bedtime
- Prepare a light dinner
- Follow a relaxing ritual (take a warm bath, drink lukewarm milk, read)
- Do sports during the day, not in the evening
- Eliminate TV and other electronic devices from the bedroom
- Make sure the mattress and pillows are comfortable
- Make sure the room temperature is neither too high nor too low
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