Q. How much sleep is ideal? Can you get too much or too little?


There was a study that came out in February 2010 where they looked at 125 students who were all in school in an urban midwestern university and the students were interviewed about their sleep habits. They were looking at their sleep quality, not just sleep time. What they found was that the students with poor sleep quality, that is, those who laid in bed and were not sleeping as well and who were restless, were individuals who had more problems with their physical and psychological health. This in turn effected their emotional and academic stress levels. So if you don’t get enough sleep, that effects your stress levels, and the stress levels impact your sleep. The conclusion of the study was that insufficient sleep and irregular sleep/wake patterns were present at alarming levels in the college student population.

Given the close relationships between sleep quality and physical and mental health, intervention programs for sleep disturbance in this population should be considered. There is no magic number for any individual as to how much sleep you need but here is what I recommend: Try to get to bed if you can by 10 p.m.. There is research that suggests that hormones like growth hormone and melatonin are secreted best before midnight. So if you get to bed a couple hours before midnight, that seems to be optimal. If you get to bed before midnight and you sleep until you wake up the next morning without an alarm, say at 4 o’clock in the morning and feel ready to go, then you need to get up. Even if you got 6 hours of sleep and you feel rested and refreshed, you should get up then. Sometimes people feel refreshed and rested but two hours later they feel exhausted. What will happen the next night if you continue that program? You will go to bed early again and will likely sleep longer. The idea is to get away from running your schedule by some arbitrary clock and here is why. If your body is fighting an infection and you have just been exposed to the flu, you might need more sleep that night. So try to allow yourself to sleep until you are rested by going to bed on time. That is where the challenge usually is. If you are used to staying up until midnight then you probably won’t be able to fall asleep tonight at nine o’clock. You may need to start by getting up earlier in the morning so that you can get on a better schedule. Optimal sleep for most people is somewhere between 7-8 hours of sleep but some people need a little bit more and some need less. If you are under more stress or your sleep quality is poor you may need more sleep.

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