March 7, 2016

Got Sleep? How much should you get?

sleepThis week is Sleep Awareness Week! The National Sleep Foundation celebrates this week every year to raise awareness for the importance of sleep in terms of your health, safety and productivity. In honor of Sleep Awareness Week, we will be doing a blog post a day to discuss the importance of sleep, the potential heath conditions related to insufficient sleep, and various other sleep-related topics. Today’s post focuses on how much sleep you should be getting, and also discusses how to maximize the benefits of naps.

Insufficient sleep is linked to several chronic conditions. These include diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and depression. According to the CDC, adults require around 7-8 hours of sleep per night (this is a generalization and may vary person-to-person). For many college students, this may seem like an unreasonable amount to expect: what with homework assignments, midterms, jobs and trying to still remain social all at one time, sleep can easily be put on the back burner. However, too little sleep for too long a period of time can actually hinder academic performance, so it’s important to work as hard as possible to get the recommended amount most nights.

If getting enough sleep at night isn’t possible, naps are a great way to feel more well-rested if you’re really dragging through your day. The Huffington Post wrote an article in which they consulted Michael Breus, PhD for his tips on how to best maximize naps. Here are some suggestions:

  • If you don’t have enough time for a full-cycle nap (meaning a full 90 minutes which allows your body to go into deep REM sleep) then aim to keep yours short: approximately 25-30 minutes is best. This allows you to rest without dropping into deep sleep, which is especially important if you’re looking for a nap to energize you, because when you’re woken from deep sleep without having enough time to complete the full cycle, you actually wake up more tired than you were initially.
  • Try taking a caffeine nap: try drinking a cup of coffee quickly, then taking a 20 minute nap: the caffeine should kick in immediately after you wake up which should leave you feeling refreshed and energized.
  • Make sure to not nap after 4 pm. The low point of the body’s natural circadian cycle is between noon and 4 pm, so you’re most likely to fall asleep between these hours: napping after 4 pm can lead to acute insomnia, meaning you’ll have trouble falling asleep at night.

Check back throughout this next week to learn more about sleep disorders! Tomorrow’s spotlight: insomnia.