Sleep often becomes the first thing you skimp on when things schedules get busy.
But getting enough sleep should be a non-negotiable healthy habit, no matter how much you think you need to do in a day.
How much sleep much is “enough”?
The exact number differs slightly from person to person, but there is a healthy range.
Adults need at least seven hours, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but 35% of Americans aren’t getting the rest they need.
If you’ve ever wondered “how much sleep should I get?” read on to learn what can happen when you don’t get enough — and how to rest better.
How Much Sleep Do I Need?
She underscores that everyone’s needs are different — but that doesn’t mean five hours of sleep a night is enough (even when you think it is).
Sleep deprivation “affects our self-perception, and we aren’t always aware of just how much it is impacting us,” explains Dr. Joshua Roland, a board-certified sleep physician at University of California Los Angeles.
If you feel fine when you’re active or interacting with people but struggle with sleepiness when you’re in quiet or sedentary situations, Dr. Singh says that’s a sign that you’re not getting enough ZZZs.
Genetics, increased physical activity, and certain health conditions can cause you to need more sleep, adds Dr. Roland.
How can you tell if you’re getting enough sleep?
Dr. Singh says it “depends on if you feel productive, healthy, and happy on the amount of sleep you are getting.”
Another giveaway: You sleep in to play “catch up” on the weekends, she says.
What Happens When I Don’t Sleep Enough?
“Every aspect of your health suffers when you don’t get enough sleep,” says Dr. Singh. (Yes, even if you think you feel fine.)
Just a few nights of sub-par sleep “slows down your mental performance and reaction time, reduces your ability to form memories and learn, alters your immune system function and endocrine hormones, and increases your risk of sports injuries,” Dr. Roland explains.
According to Dr. Singh, the impact on our immune system make it more likely that we’ll get sick and make it harder to recover if we are already sick.
Long-term sleep deprivation is worse.
You’re also more likely to experience a mental health issue.
How Can I Improve My Sleep Habits?
1. Stick to a sleep schedule
Consistency is key, even on the weekends. Having a sleep schedule “can help strengthen our internal clock, or circadian rhythm, and allow us to get healthier sleep,” says Dr. Roland.
2. Manage your bedroom environment
Make sure your room is completely dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature, Dr. Singh advises.
Warmer temperatures may cause lighter sleep, so turn down the thermostat if you can.
3. Limit activities in your bed
Your bed should just be for sex and sleep, according to Dr. Roland.
Watching Netflix or working from bed “takes away from our drive to sleep there.”
4. Get exercise and sunlight during the day
Natural sunlight directly influences sleep by affecting our circadian rhythm.
Exercise can improve sleep in people with sleep issues. Just make sure you’re exercising at least several hours before bed.
5. Wind down before bed
“It’s important to give ourselves time at the end of the day to bring things down mentally and get our minds primed for sleep,” Dr. Roland says.
Just make sure to avoid screen time.