Do You Get Enough Sleep?

by updated 2011/03/16

Source: The Washington Post

This is National Sleep Awareness Week; the week where the media tells us what we all know already… we do not get enough sleep.  How much sleep do you need?  Supposedly at least 7 hours and at least 35% of us get less than that requirement. Additionally over five percent of drivers admit that within the last 30 days they have dosed off while driving. Just a guess here, but probably more than that don’t admit it or are not aware that they have dozed off. I remember a study I came across many years ago, (don’t have a link though), where video cameras were installed in cars and the researchers watched people as their heads dropped to their chests and then snapped back up. Most of these people when asked later if they had dozed off, said “no” and were very surprised when shown the video proof of their dozing.

I know I don’t always get enough sleep. Some nights I get 5 or 6 hours, other nights 8 or 9 but I am not sure what my average is. The consequences of getting less than 7-9 hours of sleep vary from person to person but one result that I find interesting is weight gain.  Several studies have shown that, all other things being accounted for, less sleep means more pounds.  That in itself is not new news, (see this less sleep makes you overweight article from 2004), but still losing sleep over your weight may be a vicious circle.  In my case since I started in my current job about 3 years ago, I have gained at least 10 pounds.  This job requires me to get up very early so 4 nights a week, at least, I definitely get much less than 7 hours of sleep. Rising at 5:30 a.m. means I would have to be asleep by 9:30 or 10:30 p.m. to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep.  This never happens.  My body rhythms are such that I am wide awake in the late evening.  I need to be sick to have a chance of sleeping before 11:00 p.m.

In addition to how much time you spend sleeping, another important factor is how well you sleep.  If you take quality of sleep into account, I bet most of us are sleep deprived.  I know many senior citizens who complain they don’t sleep well.  But, I remember reading once that people who are retired are actually one of the best rested groups in the U.S.  This is as is should be and is probably because they do not have the time restraints they had when younger.  If you can spend 9 hours in bed, even if you don’t sleep really well, you might still be getting your recommended 7+ hours per night.

Will Sig
1 Roger

I wish I could get 7 hours of sleep per night. I just simply do not have enough time to sleep that much. Usually, if I get anywhere from 5-6 hours of sleep per night I’m doing good. I prefer to have 6 solid hours, but I know I wake up many times throughout the night. I know this sounds strange, but if I get more than 7 hours of sleep per night I’m very slow the next day. I feel everyone is different and should be looked at differently as far as sleep goes.

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2 Binky

I generally get 7 hours of sleep, but often it doesn’t seem like a good 7 hours. You discussed drunk driving earlier, which is obvious a big problem, but I’ve heard that driving while sleepy can be like driving impaired. I wonder how much of a problem it really is. I doubt most would admit to dozing off or being inattentive due to fatigue.
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3 Will

I heard on the radio today that in the U.S. 250,000 people every day fall asleep when driving. Amazing.

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4 Tony McGurk

I have been going to bed earlier lately & have been sleeping much better. Although I have few nights where I don’t wake during the night & this seems to be more as I have gotten older. I have stopped staying up late on the computer & now seem better able to go to sleep now I have gotten back into a routine of earlier bed time as at 1st my body seemed to be used to going to sleep late & I would lay in bed tossing & turning for ages before finally going to sleep..

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5 Will

My problem is that I am a night owl by body chemistry or something. I just can not go to sleep early. No matter how tired I am earlier in the day, I get a second wind in the evening. But I have to get up at 5:30 am for work!

My normal schedule if left to itself would be sleeping from 11 or 12 pm to 7:30 or 8:30 am.

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6 Sukhmandir Kaur

I’ve been really trying to get to bed earlier and get up earlier, but many nights no matter what time i go to bed I won’t fall asleep before 1 am no matter what. I used to get up at that time and my schedule has reversed itself. It really is much easier just to get up earlier that to bother trying to go to sleep when I can’t.

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7 Will

That is the problem I have. I get up early, but can’t go to sleep early. So I run a sleep deficit and then try to make it up once or twice a week when I can sleep later.

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8 Andy Bailey

wow, you can put on more weight the less you sleep? I thought it would have been the other way around! slothing around in bed burning no calories.

mind you though, when I get up earlier than normal I do tend to be hungry earlier, I suppose there’s more chance to eat when you’re awake for more of the day.
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9 Will

Hi Andy – I first thought the same thing, that being awake longer gave you more opportunity to eat. But the research shows that even with everything being equal, including calorie intake, getting less sleep than you need causes you to more easily gain weight. In other words, eat exactly the same but get too little sleep and you will add a few pounds.

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10 Andy Bailey

that’s so strange but at least I have a reason for my ever expanding belly and it’s relationship with my increasingly troubled sleep. :)
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11 Olja

This interdependence between not getting enough sleep and more easily gaining weight is really interesting. I don’t believe that today anyone can say to be getting enough sleep, or more importantly, quality sleep. If the TV is turned on, forget it – it is definitely not a quality sleep. The same holds if there is too much electromagnetic disturbance near the sleeping area.
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