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How Much Sleep Do We Need?

When trying to meet the demands of modern life, cutting the amount of sleep you have may seem like the only way to fit everything in. Just an hour or two every night can mean that you can finish that paperwork, or watch that late night programme you love so much. But can you really afford to lose those few hours when it comes to your alertness and productivity the next day?

Everyone seems to have a different answer when it comes to the question of how much sleep we need per night, and this is because everyone is different when it comes to determining their nightly sleep needs.

It is recommended by health professionals, that, on average, 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep per night are the amount needed to fully rejuvenate you ready for the next day’s challenges.

Understanding your internal 24-hour sleep-wake cycle is vital when determining your optimum sleep time. Otherwise known as your biological clock or circadian rhythm, it is regulated by processes in the brain that respond to how long you’ve been awake and the changes between light and dark. When it is night, the brain reacts to the change in light and by producing melatonin, a hormone that makes you feel sleepy. During the day, sunlight triggers the brain to inhibit melatonin production making your more alert and awake.

Your sleep cycle can be upset by certain factors such as nightshift work, travelling through different time zones and irregular sleeping patterns.

A big myth that many people believe is true is that you can make up for lost sleep during the week, by sleeping in over the weekend. While this catch-up on sleep does ease the sleep debt, it will never completely make up for your lack of sleep during the week and the effect it would have had on your alertness and productivity. This weekend habit can also disrupt your sleep-wake cycle so that you find it increasingly difficult to go to bed early on a Sunday to wake up refreshed on a Monday morning.

Make sure you’re performing at your best in your job and day-to-day life by understanding your nightly sleep needs and placing importance on the time you spend sleeping.