When was the last time you woke up feeling completely refreshed? If you can’t remember, it’s time to overhaul your sleep habits. So many of us go without a good night’s sleep that we’ve come to think it’s normal. And if everyone is doing it, I guess it is normal. But it’s certainly not okay. Here’s how you can know your optimal amount of sleep – and why it is so important that you get it.
Why Sleep is So Important
If you’re human, you’re probably taking your body for granted. We’re all guilty of it. But the fact remains that we only get this one body, and we have to take care of it. And sleep is one of the best things you can do to improve your overall health.
When you’re asleep, your body is working hard to heal and repair your heart and blood vessels. It’s also good for your brain. It’s a time when your brain is forming new pathways to help you learn and remember.
How to Know Your Optimal Amount of Sleep
You’ve probably heard that you need a solid 8 hours of sleep every night. And that may be true. But it’s not the case for everyone. Some people need more, and some need less. To find out how much sleep you need, follow these steps:
- Start with 8 hours: Try to get about eight hours of sleep each night for two weeks straight.
- Notice your patterns: Are you still hitting the snooze button most mornings? Or are you waking up before the alarm?
- Adjust as necessary: If you’re waking up before the alarm after 8 hours of sleep, you may be able to get away with sleeping fewer hours. In this case, try 7 ½ hours of sleep each night over the course of two weeks. If you’re still waking up before the alarm, try 7 hours, and continue adjusting from there. And if you’re on the other end of the spectrum, try the same process in reverse. Adjust your sleep by half-hour increments until you start waking up naturally.
The optimal amount of sleep needed is unique to every human being. So there’s nothing wrong with needing more or less sleep than 8 hours. Eight hours is simply a guideline. If your body needs a full 9 or 9 ½ hours, then just plan for the extra sleep in each day and you’ll feel a lot better. It may mean sacrificing some TV watching time at night, but your body will thank you.
How to Get a Better Night’s Rest
If you’re having trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, it may be a bit more difficult to figure out the optimal amount of sleep you need. In this case, try working on getting a better night’s rest first.
Try these tips to help you get better quality sleep:
- Wind down before bed – This may seem like an overly simplistic tip, but it’s an important one. Shut down the television and electronic devices one hour before your scheduled bedtime. Instead, read a book, take a bath or do something relaxing.
- Use room darkening shades – When it’s dark, your body gets the message that it’s time for sleep. So if your bedroom is located near a streetlight or you have an odd sleep schedule, get some room darkening shades or curtains.
- Try white noise – Any sound in your home can be startling when everything else is quiet. This is where a white noise machine can help. The white noise raises the level of quiet in the room, so other noises aren’t quite so disturbing.
- Skip the nightcap – Many people use alcohol as a tool to help them get to sleep, but it can actually do quite the opposite. Alcohol is likely to prevent you from getting a night of restful sleep.
Sleep is more important than most of us realize, and it’s not something we think about often. But once you start to shift your sleep habits and get better rest, it’s like everything else falls into place. Your whole outlook will improve once your figure out and get your optimal amount of sleep!