How to Determine Your Individual Sleep Needs

Sleep is vital for our health and wellbeing. But many of us aren’t getting the quantity or quality of sleep that our bodies require. So how much sleep you really need? Here are some signs you’re either oversleeping or undersleeping, as well as how to determine your individual sleep needs.

Signs of undersleeping

Most of us know how a lack of ample shut-eye makes us feel. After a late night, we might spend the next day in a fog — yawning, cranky and counting down the minutes until we’re reunited with our pillow. And a continuous lack of sleep can take a toll on our physical and mental health.

Here are some consequences of undersleeping, according to Healthline.

  • Memory issues
  • Trouble with concentration
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Weakened immune system
  • Higher risk for diabetes and heart disease
  • Weight gain
  • High blood pressure
  • Poor balance and coordination
  • Low sex drive
  • Increased risk of early death

This goes for the people who simply don’t sleep enough — as well as those with medical conditions, such as sleep apnea, that prevent them from getting adequate quality sleep. Some effects of undersleeping we feel right away, while others can creep up on us. “In the short term, a lack of adequate sleep can affect judgment, mood, ability to learn and retain information, and may increase the risk of serious accidents and injury,” according to Harvard Medical School. “In the long term, chronic sleep deprivation may lead to a host of health problems including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even early mortality.”

Signs of oversleeping

sleeping woman hitting an alarm clockCredit: AntonioGuillem/Getty Images

It might be pretty easy for you to notice when you haven’t gotten enough rest. But what about too much sleep? It is possible to exceed your sleep requirements, which also can lead to some serious health problems.

Here are some complications that can arise from oversleeping, according to Healthline.

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Obesity
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Memory problems
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Back pain
  • Increased risk of early death

This typically doesn’t include the people who like to sleep in on weekends or feel they need extra rest after a day of physical exertion (though any change to your normal sleep schedule can have side effects). Oversleeping usually stems from certain health conditions that drain your energy, impair sleep quality or increase the amount of sleep you need, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Some of those conditions include sleep apnea, chronic pain, taking certain medications and narcolepsy. So if you tend to be an oversleeper, it’s important to see your doctor to rule out any underlying cause.

Determining your optimal sleep needs

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Most adults need roughly seven to nine hours of sleep. But everyone has their own “magic number” that makes them feel well-rested, according to the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep.org. Many factors — including age, health and physical exertion — affect your sleep needs. But as you go through your ordinary routine, there are a few simple ways to determine whether you’re getting adequate sleep.

Sleep.org recommends asking yourself these questions:

  • “How long does it take you to fall asleep?” It ideally should take about 15 to 20 minutes for sleep to come — no more and interestingly no less either, which would mean you’re too exhausted.
  • “Do you need an alarm to wake up?” If you’re getting the right amount of sleep, you should be able to wake up naturally.
  • “How do you feel?” Don’t ignore any signs of undersleeping or oversleeping.

If you’ve decided you could be doing better in the sleep department, there are many methods to try. First, you might find it helpful to keep a sleep diary to track exactly how much shut-eye you’re getting each night and how it makes you feel. “This will help you notice patterns and figure out which type of sleep routine suits you best,” according to Sleep.org.

Start adjusting your bedtime either earlier or later by 15-minute increments, depending on whether you suspect oversleeping or undersleeping is your issue. It might take weeks, but ultimately you should learn where your individual sleep needs fall. And if you’re still not feeling rested, take your data to a doctor to look for underlying medical issues.

‘Sleep hygiene’ is key

man asleep with a sleep maskCredit: AndreyPopov/Getty Images

So you carve out enough hours each night to sleep. That’s great, but you’re not done yet. Your body has both quantity and quality needs when it comes to rest, and that’s where your “sleep hygiene” comes in.

“Sleep hygiene is a variety of different practices and habits that are necessary to have good nighttime sleep quality and full daytime alertness,” according to the National Sleep Foundation. Signs of poor sleep hygiene include frequently waking up in the middle of the night, as well as taking a long time to fall asleep. It also leads to drowsiness during the day.

How do you improve your sleep hygiene? The sleep foundation has a few tips. First, you should limit any naps during the day to about 20 to 30 minutes — if at all. Longer naps might interfere with your ability to get a full night’s sleep. Plus, avoid stimulants, such as caffeine, close to bedtime. And only drink alcohol in moderation, as processing it can affect your sleep. Likewise, stay away from heavy meals or foods that can trigger indigestion close to bedtime.

Furthermore, maintain your circadian rhythm by getting enough exposure to light during the day and limiting light at night when you’re winding down to sleep. Also, exercising during the day can promote better sleep — though a workout close to bedtime might make you too alert to sleep.

And finally, possibly the most important part of your sleep hygiene is establishing a regular sleep schedule and making sure your bedroom is set up for comfortable rest. “The bedroom should be cool — between 60 and 67 degrees — for optimal sleep,” according to the National Sleep Foundation. “… Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, ‘white noise’ machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices that can make the bedroom more relaxing.” Because we spend about a third of our lives asleep, we might as well try to have the best sleep possible.

Main image credit: andresr/Getty Images

63 comments

Mia B
Mia B4 days ago

thank you for sharing

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Jack Y
Jack Y8 days ago

thanks

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Jack Y
Jack Y8 days ago

thanks

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John J
John J8 days ago

thanks for sharing

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John J
John J8 days ago

thanks for sharing

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Peggy B
Peggy B22 days ago

TY

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Frances G
Frances G23 days ago

Thanks very much

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Shae Lee
Shae Lee23 days ago

Thanks

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Amparo Fabiana C
Amparo Fabiana C25 days ago

I love to sleep, eat light before to avoid gaining weight.

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Paulo R
Paulo Rabout a month ago

ty

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