Getting a good sleep is one of the most pivotal factors in body and brain health — but with the busy lives we’re leading, getting a “good sleep” is one of the most challenging feats we tackle in the average day.
We all know we need it, but it’s hard to determine just how much we should be getting — not to mention how we should be getting it. It’s hard to feel like we’re ever quite getting enough (hint: we aren’t) and we may not realize how much that’s hurting us. Read on to learn all the best tips for a good night’s sleep from field experts (and try to stay awake until the end!)
How Much Sleep Do I Really Need?
Although different findings have been reported on this matter over the past decade on sleep research, The New York Times describes a particularly enlightening 2003 study by Dr. David Dinges – the head of the Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory at the Hospital at University of Pennsylvania — can convincingly confirm that eight hours is optimal for a healthy night of sleep. For the purposes of this study, Dinges assigned dozens of subjects into three separate groups: some would sleep four hours per night, some would sleep six hours per night, and the final fortunate few would sleep eight hours per night — all under controlled laboratory conditions.
Each day, subjects faced P.V.T. (psychomotor vigilance tests) — essentially, elementary tests of reaction-time — considered to be excellent measures of sleepiness and cognitive functioning. Those subjects who had gotten the recommended eight hours of sleep did not lapse out of consciousness at any point throughout testing. The six-hour and four-hour groups performed markedly worse on the first day of the experiment, growing increasingly impaired with each passing test session.
The Times describes a subsequent study by Dr. Gregory Belenky, then-director of the division of neuroscience at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Md., which suggested that even a seven-hour night of sleep showed negative — and immediate — impacts on subjects’ levels of awareness (interestingly, subjects who got more than eight hours did not perform markedly better than any eight-hour subjects — making eight hours the “sweet spot” between health and efficiency.)
According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2013 report, the average American is getting six hours and 31 minutes of sleep (approximately 6.5 hours) of sleep per night. It turns out that, like it or not, our brains could be performing at a higher level!
All that said, no two bodies are precisely the same, so seven to eight hours represents an average — as with any figure, deviations do exist. But most sources, including the Center for Disease Control, confirm that this basal amount is tops as far as the national average is concerned. As we all know, getting a good sleep is easier said than done. So how do we make it happen?