Sleep is one of the core, foundational pillars of life.
Not only does it help us repair and recover from both the fun and stress of modern day life, it also acts as an incredible reset for the body and mind.
But, this powerful rejuvenation tool within ourselves needs time to work its magic, so let’s consider how much sleep do you need?
First we need to explore what sleep actually is and what it consists of.
A Normal Sleep Cycle
Did you know that sleep isn’t just an on/off switch?
Sleep isn’t just one big block of hours upon hours of the same type of sleep.
Instead, sleep is made up of different cycles and stages and, although everyone is slightly different, the average sleep cycle normally consists of 4-6 cycles and 4 defined stages.
That means that your sleep normally consists of different blocks of 90 minutes each on average, all joined together throughout the night as you rest and recuperate.
Each sleep cycle moves us through the different stages of sleep, which we’ll look at next.
Stages of Sleep
Proving just how magical the body is, not all sleep is the same.
As we’ve said, sleep researchers have defined 4 distinct stages of sleep. Each is different, based on brain activity, both in terms of quality and duration.
The Stages of Sleep:
- Stage 1 - lasting 1-5 minutes
- Stage 2 - lasting 10-60 minutes
- Stage 3 - lasting 20-40 minutes (slow-wave or deep sleep)
- Stage 4 - REM sleep lasting 10-60 minutes
Each of these stages represent a slightly different form of sleep. You’ll recognise this within your own body, where there’s a clear difference in how you feel after a deep sleep or after accidentally nodding off for a couple of minutes.
Arguably the most famous of these stages is stage 4, REM sleep. This stage is strongly linked to cognitive functions and vivid dreaming, which is probably why it’s so interesting to everyone!
Without going further, the most important thing to remember is that sleep consists of multiple stages and cycles, and a normal healthy sleep pattern includes all of the above as the body naturally relaxes and repairs.
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
So, if all the above is what constitutes a good nights sleep, how much sleep do you actually need?
As you might expect, the amount of sleep required is heavily linked to your age group (i.e. child, teen, adult etc.) and multiple sources suggest that adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep, on average, every night.
This is an average so remember that all the variables of life can change the required amount.
If you’re currently thinking about your own sleep routines, ask yourself whether your current sleep patterns:
- Help you feel energetic for the day ahead
- Aid your mindset, happiness and mood
- Let you be productive and creative throughout your day
- Facilitate your lifestyle (e.g. active, less active etc.)
When thinking about the above, you might also want to consider the quality of sleep you’re currently getting, any over-reliance of caffeine products, and whether or not you wakeup feeling tired most mornings.
This type of awareness should help when you’re considering what to do next.