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Here’s How Much Sleep You Really Need, According to Science

Everyone’s sleep requirements are different. Here’s what you need to know to get the best rest.

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Why We Need Sleep

Adequate sleep plays a critical role in the body’s immune system, metabolism and other functions. But 31 per cent of Canadians believe they aren’t getting enough shut-eye, according to international research conducted in 2016 by the insurance company Aviva.

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What is the Right Amount of Sleep?

But how much rest is required? “That’s the most common question I get from patients as well as the general public,” says Dr. Rachel Morehouse, medical director of the Atlantic Sleep Centre in Saint John, N.B. “I always tell them it’s extremely individual.”

The National Sleep Foundation in Washington, D.C., recommends that adults between 26 and 64 years of age should be getting seven to nine hours, while adults 65 and older may require seven to eight hours. But there are other factors to take into account, such as genetics. “If you grew up in a family that needed nine hours a night, chances are you’re a long sleeper, too,” says Morehouse.

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Who Requires the Most Rest?

Your environment, lifestyle and health also play a role. If you’re, say, training for an athletic event, in the first trimester of pregnancy or recovering from the flu, your sleep needs will be higher.

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The Negative Effects of Sleeplessness

The ideal amount is whatever it takes for you to feel rested in the morning. If you are getting insufficient shut-eye, you might have trouble concentrating and making decisions, and you may experience short-term memory problems.

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Tired man in bedPhoto: Shutterstock

How to Get the Sleep You Need

To get a sense of your personal rest requirements, put your alarm clock away in a drawer for a few weeks, perhaps when you’re on vacation, and let yourself sleep until you wake up naturally in the morning. Avoid stimulants in the evening, such as caffeine and bright light, and stick to a regular nighttime routine. Keep a diary or use wearable technology to track how long you slumber; after those first few weeks, you should know how much rest you truly need. Now you’re ready to set your new bedtime accordingly—possibly earlier or later than your partner’s, if your needs differ—and rise refreshed in the morning.

Originally published in the July 2017 issue of Reader’s Digest Canada.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada