Hours of Sleep: Fact and Fiction

Sleeping is not a time when your body and your brain shut down. Instead, your brain is active resolving emotional, mental, physical and hormonal challenges accumulated from the day before — and even longer.

Dreams are also a big part of that process, but if you don’t remember your dreams, it’s usually because they didn’t wake you up. You remember dreams that get you up from your sleep; the others you usually don’t.

Remember, the adult human being generally needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night. If you’re getting less than that, you will no doubt feel fatigued the next day and won’t be able to function to your full potential. If you’re choosing to sleep less, you’re deliberately shortchanging yourself. If on the other hand you have sleep problems or even a sleep disorder, you should seek professional help if adopting good sleep-hygiene habits don’t do the trick for you.

People harbor some popular myths about sleep times and how to cope and compensate. Here are four:

1) Getting one hour less of sleep a night won’t affect you. True, you may not feel as tired the next day, but your ability to respond to people and challenges in your environment will be compromised. In addition, your cardiovascular health, energy balance, and ability to fight infections will also be compromised.

2) Your body can adjust to new sleep patterns quickly, that is, when you go from one time-zone to another or from the day shift to the night shift. Not true, it takes about a week, sometimes more, to adapt to changes as little as one hour. That’s why many people report problems when Daylight Savings Time kicks in.

3) Extra sleep at night can cure your daytime fatigue problems. Yes and no, depending on the quality of your sleep. If you’re not getting good quality sleep, an extra hour will probably make little or no difference. You need to treat the underlying problem, whether a sleep disorder, medical condition, stress or whatever.

4) Sleeping more on the weekend can make up for lost sleep during the week. Maybe to an extent, but sleeping in later on the weekends can make it harder to go back to a workweek sleep pattern. You may well suffer on Monday mornings (and subsequent days) because your body is trying to adapt to new hours of sleep.

We’ve published other articles on good sleep hygiene. Going to bed at the same time and arising at the same time everyday is one of those good habits. If you’re totally honest with yourself and adopt good sleep hygiene and still feel fatigued in the daytime, get professional help ASAP.

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