Mental Health

How Much Sleep Is Enough? Tips For Sleeping Well

Sleep deprivation has been considered a public health concern, with about 50 to 70 million adults suffering from a sleep or wakefulness disorder. Lack of regular and adequate sleep could increase risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and cancer in the long run.

In order to encourage Americans to prioritize their sleep more, Sleep Awareness Week was kicked off March 11. Here are some things you should know about a perfect night of rest.

How long am I supposed to take to fall asleep? And how much of it is enough?

Individuals in the normal sleep cycle may take between 10 to 20 minutes to fall asleep. The two other extremes — falling asleep as soon as you lie down or being awake for hours after going to bed — may be symptoms of underlying health issues.

Taking less than 5 minutes is known to be a common sign of sleep deprivation.

"Sleep is not an on, off switch," sleep specialist Michael Breus said. "It's more like slowly pulling your foot off the gas and slowly putting your foot on the brake. There's a process that has to occur."

Taking hours to fall asleep, on the other hand, suggested insomnia or an impaired body clock. The latter may be caused by excessive caffeine consumption or jet lag.

Overall, health professionals recommend 7 to 9 hours of sleep for adults.

What would be the best surrounding to sleep in?

The National Sleep Foundation recommends between 54 and 75°F for the best quality of sleep. If you need to have night lights on to fall sleep, Harvard recommends using dim red ones, since these have the least power to disrupt circadian rhythms.

Experts also recommended the appropriate blanket cover and optimal air circulation. 

Is there anything I'm probably doing that could ruin my sleep?

The most obvious source of disruption comes from the use of smartphones right before bed, particularly the use of social media. A recent survey examined different apps and the extent to which they disrupted sleep across every age group. 

Caffeine or nicotine should be avoided late in the day as these substances may promote restlessness in bed.

What are the benefits of getting a good night's sleep?

Your memory power is boosted significantly. A recent study, which used EEG scans to observe people's brains during sleep, revealed newly learned information could be strengthened by using auditory cues. 

Sleeping also reduces inflammation and signs of aging. Poor sleep patterns can damage the skin's ability to repair itself. Studies have shown well-rested people are at healthier weights than their counterparts. Lesser sleep, in turn, is associated with increased hunger and a possible temptation for a midnight snack.

"Many things that we take for granted are affected by sleep," said Raymonde Jean, director of sleep medicine and associate director of critical care at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City. "If you sleep better, you can certainly live better. It’s pretty clear."