If insomnia is a problem, women should consult a doctor as over-the-counter sleep aids are generally not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers. You could be one of those incredibly rare people that can actually get by on a few hours of sleep a night (almost definitely not), or you could be on the opposite end of the spectrum, what doctors refer to as a "long sleeper," who might need 11 hours a night.
Here are five facts that will help you figure out what your personal sleep patterns are and how they compare to the rest of the population. The amount of sleep that people need falls into a bell curve type distribution, with the vast majority of the population needing between seven and nine hours of rest each night to be refreshed. The chart to the right, from the book "Internal Time: Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and Why You're So Tired" by German chronobiologist Till Roenneberg, shows the general distribution of sleep needs. The seven to nine hour recommendation is standard for adults, but kids need much more sleep, while some older people need less. This chart by the National Sleep Foundation shows how these requirements change as kids grow up. While your sleep needs (both chronotype and length) are mostly genetic and can't really be adjusted, there are certain things you can do to adjust your schedule and at least make it a bit easier to get up earlier.
But as interesting as any sleep research is, we do know that people are different and have different needs. If you can let yourself sleep naturally for a few days to a week, going to bed when you are tired and waking up whenever is natural, preferably while limiting alcohol and caffeine, you'll have a better idea of your individual needs. Diabetes: In a study of almost 9,000 Americans, researchers found a relationship between sleep and the risk of diabetes.
Heart disease: A careful analysis of the data from the Nurses' Health Study, which involved nearly 72,000 women, showed that women who slept nine to 11 hours per night were 38 percent more likely to have coronary heart disease.
Death: Multiple studies have found that people who sleep nine or more hours a night have significantly higher death rates. Meanwhile, the common assertion that you need eight or more hours of sleep each night may be incorrect. It’s no mystery that if you go too long without sleep, your mind will not function properly. In reality, this misguided belief was based on a 1913 study that found children aged 8 to 17 slept for nine hours a night.
However, sleep researchers have also found that it takes just a single night of sleeping only four to six hours to impact your ability to think clearly the next day. A study from the National Institutes of Health found that those who sleep nine hours or more each night are almost twice as likely to develop Parkinson's disease as those who sleep six hours or less. Another study in Diabetes Care found that sleeping five hours or less, or nine hours or more each night may increase your risk of developing diabetes. Studies suggest that healthy adults have a basal sleep need of seven to eight hours each night.

There is well proven evidence that sleeping too little will have devastating effects on your health, including increasing your risk of diabetes, heart problems, obesity, depression, substance abuse and car accidents. Still other researchers have suggested that your body will not let you sleep more than you need to, while others say sleeping less may actually be healthy if you have a tendency to oversleep. The average time spent in bed is 6 hours and 55 minutes -- with 6 hours and 40 minutes spent actually sleeping, according to NSF’s 2008 Sleep in America poll. One of the most acclaimed sleep researchers, Daniel Kripke, said there’s never been any evidence to back the 8-hour rule. The average amount of sleep needed changes over our lifetime, especially during childhood and adolescence. Sleep loss increases the risk of high blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, and diseases associated with these risk factors, such as diabetes and heart disease. If you experience frequent daytime sleepiness, even after increasing the amount of quality sleep you get, consult your doctor. As well, persistent, long-term insufficient sleep should be treated because it is associated with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression.
You have a natural chronotype, or body clock, that determines when you are most comfortable sleeping and being awake. Both of those groups like to sleep a little later than the larks and go to bed earlier than the owls, but one of those two groups feels sluggish both morning and evening while the other has high energy levels at both times. You could be one of the large percentage of the population with undiagnosed sleep apnea, especially if you snore. People who slept more than nine hours each night had a 50 percent greater risk of diabetes than people who slept seven hours per night.
One recent study showed that people who slept for nine or 10 hours every night were 21 percent more likely to become obese over a six-year period. But those days are long gone -- they now recommend against sleeping more than usual, when possible. This may in turn make their depression worse, because regular sleep habits are important to the recovery process.
Sleep deprivation can actually cause changes in your brain activity similar to those experienced by people with psychiatric disorders. But this is based on the notion that our ancestors slept around nine hours each night, and therefore we should too. Another study found that those who slept about seven hours had the highest survival rate, and those who slept less than 4.5 hours had the worst. Research suggests that too much sleep increases your risk of death, yet low socioeconomic status and depression are also significantly associated with long sleep. As the graph from NSF below shows, staying somewhere in the middle ranges of seven to eight hours of sleep a night appears to be best.

NSF recommends getting at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, but you should always tailor that to your individual needs. I highly recommend reading this list, printing it out, and keeping it somewhere handy to reference until your sleep needs are being met.
He or she may be able to identify any underlying causes — and help you get a better night’s sleep. This looks at what happens in the womb, how the genes a baby inherits are expressed (turned on and off), and how this influences the child’s health after birth.
But we can also use this to train our bodies to get up and go to sleep earlier by exposing ourselves to natural light in the morning and avoiding bright light at night.
People who sleep too much during the day and disrupt their nighttime sleep may also find themselves suffering from headaches in the morning.
In fact, in certain instances, sleep deprivation can be an effective treatment for depression.
Several large studies over the past 40 years show that the average healthy adult sleeps for seven to seven-and-a-half hours a night, and that should be plenty from a physical perspective. So according to Horne, it’s perfectly possible for some adults to thrive on five, six or seven hours of sleep a night. Nine hours of sleep or more each night was also associated with a higher mortality risk, however. If you have a sleep debt, you may be especially tired at the times when your circadian rhythm naturally dips -- such as overnight or in the mid-afternoon.
So it could be that other factors are contributing to the health risks of too much sleep, and it is not the sleep itself that is the problem. As always, you should let your body be your guide, sleeping more if you feel tired, and sleeping less if you feel you’ve overslept.
Our patterns have changed through the centuries and what is considered a standard amount of sleep has changed over the years. Yet, we love to go on about how little sleep we need, how we can make do, how that guy is a go-getter who is up at 4 a.m. Some adults need even less than that and can function normally on just five hours of sleep a night. You may require more or less sleep than someone of the same age, gender and activity level.

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