How much sleep do you think you need every night? How about 6 hours? 8 hours? Or perhaps 10? We asked Dr Emeka what the magic number is, what on earth a sleep cycle does and how to wake up feeling groovy, not groggy.
sleep isn’t one size fits all
How many hours should you be sleeping each night? There’s a lot of advice out there, and we’re usually told to aim for 8 hours, but that isn’t strictly true. In fact, the amount of sleep needed is unique to each person. But why is that?
A big factor is age. Newborn babies, for example, need a whopping 17 hours of sleep, whereas older adults can sleep for 7 hours or less. The amount you need also depends on how active you are during the day, if you have any health issues, what your schedule looks like - there’s a lot to consider, and this can be quite confusing.
But there is an easy way to figure out how much sleep you need: listen to your body.
morning lark or night owl? you be you
Are you a morning or a night person? Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t something you can just decide, and it certainly doesn’t mean you’re lazy or more productive than other people. Whether you want to wake up early or late is a natural part of your body clock.
If you’re not sure which one you are, imagine you have a day off with absolutely nothing planned. Would you naturally wake up early, or would you want to sleep in? Do you find yourself resisting going to bed earlier, or do you struggle keeping your eyes open during an evening movie?
Figuring out if you’re a morning lark or a night owl not only helps you to understand how much sleep you need, but also the best time to go to bed to get great quality sleep.
understanding your sleep cycle
First things first, what is a sleep cycle?
When we sleep, we go through 4 different sleep stages, which makes up one sleep cycle. We go through several sleep cycles during the night, and each one lasts around 90 minutes or so.
These 4 sleep stages allow the brain and body to recuperate and develop. If you get woken in the middle of your sleep cycle, this can make you feel groggy and not quite with it. That’s why it’s important to understand whether you’re a morning lark or a night owl - by hitting the hay at the right time, you’ll be about to wake up naturally at the end of your sleep cycle and feel all nice and refreshed.
how do you feel?
No one knows your sleep cycle better than your body does. So if you’re wondering if you’re not getting enough sleep, here are the signs to look out for:
- Trouble focusing for long periods of time
- Feeling hungry a lot of the time, and craving fatty foods in particular
- Getting a lot of colds
- Feeling irritable
- Finding it difficult to remember things
- Skin problems
- Low sex drive
Or perhaps you’re getting too much sleep? Yep, that’s actually a thing. Here are some of the telltale signs for that:
- Low energy
- Feeling down
- Foggy brain
- Weight gain
- Back pain
don’t be alarmed
Perhaps one of the best things you can do for your sleep is skip the alarm. It isn’t always doable (kids and jobs will often get in the way of that), but whenever you can, let your body naturally wake up when it needs to at the end of a sleep cycle. Your body is very clever after all, and knows just how much sleep it needs.
If you’re still scratching your head over the best time to go to bed, check out eve’s early bird quiz. After a few simple questions, you’ll find out what morning bird you are, as well as some handy tips for switching off at night.