You’re not alone in wanting to know how much sleep you should get a night or if napping is really bad for you. That’s why we’ve put together the top five questions we often get asked, with the answers we always provide.
- How much sleep should I get a night?
This is the question everyone wants an answer to! The average sleep an adult requires or might expect to sleep is around eight hours a night. However there is no ‘normal’ length of time, it is whatever is natural for you. We all feel sleepy at times but it is important that it is not disruptive to your daily life and general health. Looking at your bedroom environment and video and then assessing if there is anything you can do to improve your quality of your environment might help you to improve on the time you are asleep. Regularly getting less than five to six hours of sleep a night is a no-go as it significantly increases the risk of stroke and heart disease, with evidence that not sleeping enough may ramp up the ‘fight or flight’ response to stress, releasing hormones that speed up heart rate and raise blood pressure.
- Are naps bad for me?
Planned daytime naps improve alertness without necessarily affecting nocturnal sleep. Try to limit naps to around 20 minutes – any longer and they may leave you groggy and interfere with night time sleep. If you find yourself needing a nap on a regular basis, chances are you need to re-evaluate your sleep. If you experience insomnia or poor sleep quality at night, napping might make these problems worse.
- Can you catch up on sleep at the weekend?
Sleeping in on the weekends doesn’t fix all the deficits caused by workweek sleep loss. A few days of lost sleep can have adverse effects including increased daytime sleepiness, worsened daytime performance, an increase in molecules that are a sign of inflammation in the body and impaired blood sugar regulation. Recovery sleep over a weekend may not reverse all the effects of lost sleep during the week and if it disrupts your normal go-to-bed and get-up routine that could also impact on sleep quality.
- As you get older, do you need less sleep?
It is a common misconception that sleep needs decline with age. It’s not about needing less sleep, but unfortunately as we get older sleep quality declines and we experience a change in sleeping patterns – whether that’s more frequent wakings in the night, loss of non-REM sleep or more daytime napping. There are all sorts of ways in which older people can help themselves to a better night’s sleep – mostly it’s just a case of adjusting daily routines as sleeping patterns change – and trying to limit the cat naps!
- Are there any products you can buy that help you to get a better night’s sleep?
A bed – many people underestimate the importance of a comfortable supportive bed. Research found that swapping an uncomfortable bed for a new one resulted in nearly an extra hour of sleep a night.Invest in blackout blinds or heavy curtains to keep your room dark. Light suppresses melatonin (the sleepy hormone) that relaxes your body helping you to drift off. If noise wakes you, consider purchasing in earplugs. There are also a variety of apps and trackers that claim to help improve sleep – but just be careful that they don’t interfere with your sleep and that you don’t rely too heavily on them. They don’t always give a true indication of sleep patterns and may cause unnecessary worry and concern.