The Right Amount Of Sleep

by Gary Wolf



a large thai style sleeping buddha the Buddha enjoys his sleep



Chances are that you aren't getting the right amount of sleep or at least not the amount that would help you finally feel rested. Waking up without sleep inertia, that groggy feeling is all a matter of timing, but waking up feeling rested and recovered is another thing completely. How much is it worth to be able to have peak performance during your most productive hours instead of just slogging through?

Recent research suggests that the old thinking about eight being the best with more than eight being even better may be wrong for most of us. The studies just coming out recently have the benefit of larger data sets, so the averages and measure are more accurate than some of the older studies. Tying sleep to performance and health has lead scientist to think that seven hours may be just about the right number for most people. Most of the people studied the showed their optimal amount to be anywhere from 6.5 to 7.4 hours, with the lowest morbidity and mortality rates coming at seven. Getting eight might actually be hurting your health and it is probably diminishing your mental performance the next day.

Performance Increases and Decreases

Gains from the right amount of sleep peak around seven hours before oversleeping starts to reduce performance. Not getting enough sleep, even as little as 20 minutes, can affect your mental abilities through out the day. If you don't get that 20 minutes several nights in row, this is called "partial sleep deprivation" and it has been shown to reduce attentiveness and vigilance.

Getting more that 8 hours also starts to hurt, particularly if chronic. Oversleeping has been linked with increased risk of death. (Reader take note that oversleeping is linked to diabetes, obesity and heart disease in the same way as depression and low socioeconomic status. Correlation isn't causation.) The worse news is that chronic oversleeping is just as bad for your memory in the short and long terms as under sleeping. Both groups of individuals plagued by bad sleep are shown to be mental aged by two additional year by the time they are older. Getting the right amount of sleep is the key to not feeling old mentally before your time!

How to Take Advantage of this Information

If you are wondering how you can use this information to improve your sleep, it isn't that difficult but it will take a few days to determine how much sleep you need. Once you determine your needed amount of sleep, you can adjust the length of the non-initial sleep cycle on sleep calculator link until the table adjusts near your average sleep time. This will help you get the right amount of sleep during the days you can't wake naturally and will also help reduce the sleep inertia you feel. The base settings will calculate your wake time right at seven hours.

"I don't think you can overdose on healthy sleep. When you get enough sleep your body will wake you up," said Safwan Badr, head of sleep medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit. If you are able to get your optimal amount of sleep on a consistent basis you may find your health improving for the better in the short and long terms. Minor problems seem to turn into bigger problems as we get older and we can take care of some of them just by getting the right amount of sleep.

sources:
http://online.wsj.com/articles/sleep-experts-close-in-on-the-optimal-nights-sleep-1405984970
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3687527/ - The largest human cognitive performance dataset reveals insights into the effects of lifestyle factors and aging
http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/consequences/sleep-performance-and-public-safety
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jgs.12790/abstract



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