The average person needs 8 hours of sleep every night in order to maintain healthy bodily function. When you don’t get enough sleep over an extended period of time you open yourself up to a number of health problems including: obesity, heart disease, reduced fertility and mood disorders. While every person’s sleep needs are different, the results of sleep deprivation are the same.
David Dinges, who heads the Sleep and Chronobiology laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania, predicts, “Over 50 percent of the U.S. adult population is chronically sleep deprived.” Besides the physical side effects of sleep deprivation, additional problems that stem from a lack of sleep are memory lapses and impulsive behavior. In 2003, Dinges was involved in a 2-week experiment that looked at participants “alertness and wakefulness” when getting different amounts of sleep.
Those participating in the experiment were divided into 3 groups, getting 4, 6 and 8 hours of sleep each. After 2 weeks, “participants who had logged eight hours a night displayed no impairment,” while those getting 6 hours of sleep each night saw their test scores had “deteriorated to the point where it matched the average score for an individual who had been up for 24 hours straight.”
What most researchers found alarming about this study is that those getting less sleep were unable to recognize the continual decline in their responses. Dinges said, “That’s what’s so dangerous about allowing a deficit to build up. You never experience a true recovery and so the brain never resets. It begins to think the sleep deprived state is normal.”
In order to figure out how much sleep your body needs, first you need to allow your body to catch up on the sleep you’re most likely missing. After a few days of playing sleep catch up, spend the next few days paying attention to your body. Avoid caffeine and other stimulants, limit screen time late at night and then just go to bed when you feel tired and wake up without an alarm clock. After a few days, you should be able to figure out your ideal sleep schedule.
Getting enough sleep can help you to be happier, healthier and more productive. While you may think that staying up late to finish a project for work or school is the best option, getting the sleep your body needs will allow you to be more clear minded and focused, probably producing a better project than your sleep deprived mind could have.
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