Our love/hate relationship with sleep: identifying the effects of your sleep habits (part 1 of 3)

For most of us, the words ‘sleep deprived’ describes virtually everyone we know. Sleep deprivation is so common these days it’s essentially become part of American culture, from youth to middle and late adulthood. Demanding academic and/or work schedules, caring for loved ones, social plans that carry on late into the night, and early morning exercise regimes keep us barely alert without an end in sight. It’s become the new normal to live with the effects of poor sleep habits, but how is it affecting our health and well-being in the long run? This series of articles aim to help people:

1. determine the quality of your sleep habits with a 2 minute, 10 question Sleep Hygiene Test (for the record, I scored a 69, so I hope to improve my sleep habits right along with you!)
2. discover how much sleep you should be getting, on average for your age (part 1)
3. learn how to identify key signs that you are suffering from sleep deprivation (part 2)
4. learn helpful tips for improving your sleep hygiene (part 2)
5. how to determine if you’re suffering from a sleep disorder such as insomnia (part 3)

How much sleep do we really need? The amount of sleep we need varies. Infants generally need about 16 hours a day, while adolescents need about 9 hours on average, to function optimally. Adults generally need about 7 to 8 hours a night of sleep. A very small segment of people can function normally with as few as 5 hours, though others may need 10 hours of sleep each day. Women in the first 3 months of pregnancy often need several more hours of sleep than what is normal for them. People tend to sleep more lightly and for shorter time periods as they age, although they generally need about the same amount of sleep as they needed in early adulthood. About half of all people over 65 report having sleep problems, such as insomnia, and deep sleep stages in many elderly people often become very short or stop completely. This change may be a normal part of aging, or it may be the result of medical problems common in elderly people, and/or from the medications and treatments for those problems.

Parts 2 and 3 of this article will be published soon, so please stay tuned to learn how your sleep habits are affecting you, and how to make healthy changes in your sleeping routine.

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