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Sleep Need Differs

“Parents called? Again!” Mrs. Malhotra murmurs with Rohit’s school diary in her hand. Nowadays it has become the most common event for Rohit's mother. Surprisingly, the complaints are also common for every discussion - Rohit being inattentive in class, his forgetful and falling asleep every now and then. The class teacher keeps adding that these symptoms of her 6-year-old kid may have occurred because of sleep deprivation. The mother wonders, "Every day we all sleep for 6-7 hours and I don't feel sleep-deprived! Then, why him? No, it must be a sheer case of Rohit's carelessness." Like every time, she returns home exposing all her grudges on Rohit.

Mrs. Sen's story is solely different. She finds her husband either striving hard to perform well as a devoted policeman or sleeping at home even if he gets a proper sleep for 8 hours. The home-maker consulted with so many of her friends whether 8 hours of sleep is enough for them (being adults) or not and reached to the conclusion that her husband's case is nothing but of an utter carelessness towards his family.

However, Bina and her husband work in the same company for the same project. Their work-load is also almost the same. In spite of maintaining a similar lifestyle, she discerns herself more tired and sleepy in office and ordering coffee for many more times than her husband does! "Why there is so much difference! How come the same lifestyle, same work-load, same food habits create so much of difference when it comes to sleepiness!” she wonders.

The above contexts are completely different from each other except the only similarity that one character in each scenario is suffering from sleep deprivation and his/her sleep need is different from the other. Now the obvious question is, how much sleep do they need?

The irony is, we all know that to live a healthy life, we need to sleep; but most of us are unaware of the fact that our sleep needs vary from person to person, depending on our age, workload, gender, health conditions, mental health and so on. When we don't even prioritize to get into this, the problem arises.

To add to this complication, we sometimes use stimulants like tea, coffee, energy drinks, and alcohol, sometimes set alarms and break our natural sleep-wake cycle. Unknowingly, we keep on feeding our 'sleep debt' day by day and gradually forget how 'a truly rested' day feels like. The problem keeps mounting.

Observations opine that few people, mostly teenagers and young adults, consider sleep as a waste of time and engage themselves in satisfying their educational goals, entertainment or money-making. Whereas some people don't get enough sleep because of their heavier work-load, changing job-shifts or familial issues. Let it be intentional or unintentional, continual sleep loss leads to the accumulation of sleep debt and starts affecting our mind and body. So, it's time to get cautious!

What if we are sleep deprived? Sleep deprivation negatively impacts several functions of our body such as it may cause lower immunity, increase the risk of respiratory diseases and diabetes, increase body weight, and cause many other malfunctions in our body by affecting hormone production and secretion.

Therefore, before it's too late to be taken care of, let's assess three significant factors -

  • Are we sleep-deprived?
  • How much sleep do we need?
  • And, how to get back to the right track?

Ask yourself if you suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness, any of the symptoms like frequent yawning, mood-swings, tiredness, impatience, depression, difficulty in learning new concepts and forgetting things quickly, inability to concentrate on something for a longer time, lack of motivation, increased appetite, mainly, carbohydrate cravings or reduced sex drive. If yes, you may have been suffering from an ongoing sleep loss.

Not to worry, sleep deprivation is a common problem in the modern era, affecting many individuals at a certain stage of their lives, and it can be taken care of. Just remember, sleep deprivation occurs when someone does not get enough sleep according to one's sleep needs. This need again differs from person to person, largely depending on their age, work-pressure, and sometimes on their gender and medical conditions, etc. 

 

According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), each day an individual needs to sleep for the following hours based on his/her age-group. 

  • Newborns (0 to 3 months): 14 to 17 hours each day
  • Infants (4 to 11 months): 12 to 15 hours
  • Toddlers (1 to 2 years): 11 to 14 hours
  • Preschoolers (3 to 5 years): 10 to 13 hours
  • School-age children (6 to 13 years): 9 to 11 hours
  • Teenagers (14 to 17 years): 8 to 10 hours
  • Adults (18 to 64 years): 7 to 9 hours
  • Older adults (over 65 years): 7 to 8 hours

However, an individual with a higher workload or under certain medical conditions may need more sleep a day than usual. Even season change disrupts the everyday sleep need. Researchers also suggest that women need more sleep than men!

Now, it’s time to get back to the right track and overcome sleep deprivation. Just keep a few simple things in mind and maintain them well.

  • Maintain a proper sleep-wake cycle by managing a fixed time in going to bed and waking up.
  • Exercise daily, eat nutritious food and avoid fast food.
  • Relax yourself, and your bedroom before going to bed. Leave all your stress behind before sleeping; you can take a shower in lukewarm water also. At bedtime, make sure your bedroom doesn’t allow bright light to enter, and the temperature is cool and comfortable.
  •  Your sleep accessories should be proficient enough to provide you optimal comfort and support. If you are using your mattress and pillows for a longer time, think twice before use. They may have lost their capacity to benefit your health. A good quality mattress loses its life after 7-8 years. Besides, check for the material of your sleep accessories, so that they don’t invite allergies.
  • Avoid heavy meals, alcohol, tea, coffee, and cigarettes before bedtime. You may rather opt for a brisk walk or reading a book.
  • If difficulty in falling asleep persists, consult a doctor and get some help. After all, sleeping enough is important.

 

Do write to us how you feel now about your sleep need, existing sleep cycle or if any further query pops up about how to get proper sleep. Remember, sleeping more than usual and still feeling fatigued may also indicate to sleep disorders. Consult a physician (or, a Somnologist) if you experience such trouble(s) and get out of it soon.

                 - By Sleep Experts from Sunidra.