Sleep is an issue that not many people take the time to consider. Yet sleep deprivation can have significant negative impacts on how we function on a day-to-day basis. So how much sleep do you need? The answer depends on a number of individual factors, including lifestyle, age, genetics and diet. In today’s fast-paced world, many people find that sleep has become more and more of a luxury, as opposed to a necessity.

Consider that, as we get older, our bodies can function adequately with less sleep. Babies tend to require the most sleep, which can be as much as 16 hours per day. On the other hand, individuals over the age of 60 will only require as little as seven hours of sleep per day. The general rule of thumb for adults is that eight hours a night will provide the necessary rejuvenation to carry on productively throughout the day. However, sleep is a complicated process, and the quality of sleep is every bit as important as the amount of sleep one obtains each night. To date, no conclusive scientific consensus exists that alludes to a “one-size-fits-all” prescription. How much sleep you need is ultimately dependent on who you are and how you live your life. In essence, sleep requirements are highly individualistic.

One factor to consider when evaluating your sleep is what type of genetic disposition you are prone to. For example, do you have a history of insomnia or sleep disorders in your family? If so, you may need to find ways to counteract the effects of such problems by developing healthier sleep habits based on your diet and caffeine or nicotine intake, as well as the amount of alcohol you consume and the amount of exercise you engage in on a regular basis. Or, you may find that you need to train your body to develop a regular “routine” for sleep. This may be especially relevant if you are a “night person” or tend to sleep in shorter intervals at all different times of the day. Even without a particular genetic disposition to specific sleeping habits, all of these factors can all affect the quality of sleep you obtain on a daily basis.

The important thing to understand is that each individual is different. Simply relying on the eight-hour-per-night standard may not necessarily be what is best for you. While it is clear that some amount of deep sleep is needed in order for your body to replenish itself, individual sleep inclinations and lifestyles will play a much larger role in determining how much sleep you need. Some people can do quite well with only five or six hours of sleep, while others may require as much as 11 hours in order to feel rested and capable of coping with the day’s tasks.

If you do not wake up feeling rested and refreshed each morning, you may not be getting enough sleep each night. If this is the case, you should consult your doctor, who may in turn be able to prescribe a number of remedies to help you obtain the replenishment your bodies needs. Your doctor may recommend exercise, a change in diet, or an elimination of products from your diet that can adversely affect your sleep (such as alcohol, caffeine or nicotine).

If your sleep problems persist once having attempted to implement your doctor’s recommendations, you may have a significant sleep disorder. Is such cases, your doctor may be able to refer you to a sleep specialist or provide more aggressive solutions for accommodating your needs.

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