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Quantity vs Quality - How much sleep do you really need?
Daytime sleepiness, poor attention span, irritability, low mood, short temperedness, argumentative, low tolerance, sugar cravings are all symptoms of poor sleep health.
When we sleep, our bodies repair cells, strengthen the immune system, and restore energy levels. Good quality deep sleep is often the best way to help you cope with stress, solve problems, or recover from illness; naturally.
But how much sleep do we need nightly for optimum health and vitality?
According to the Sleep Health Foundation, the amount of sleep required is determined by your age:
Although eight hours is the number most often associated with a full night's sleep for adults, sleep experts know there is some degree of variation when it comes to individual sleep needs.
Dr Sudhansu Chokroverty, program director for clinical neurophysiology and sleep medicine at the New Jersey Neuroscience Institute at JFK Medical Centre says:
"the amount of sleep needed [by adults] varies from individual to individual, and is determined genetically and hereditarily. Many people can function with 6 hours sleep, and there also some who need 9 hours or more."
Professor Jim Horne of the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University says:
"simply judging sleep merely by its duration rather than its quality is like judging the nutritious value of food we eat merely on its weight."
So, what is deep restorative sleep and how do we attain it?
Sleep is prompted by natural cycles of activity in the brain and consists of two basic states:
1. rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and
2. non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep.
During the deep stages of NREM sleep, the body repairs and regenerates tissues, builds bone and muscle, and appears to strengthen the immune system.
NREM sleep moves through 4 progressively deeper stages:
Stage 1: Sleep study (polysomnography) readings show a reduction in activity between wakefulness and stage 1 sleep. The eyes are closed and a person can be awakened without difficulty. However, if aroused from this stage of sleep, a person may feel as if he or she has not slept. Stage 1 may last for five to 10 minutes. Many may notice the feeling of falling during this stage of sleep, which may cause a sudden muscle contraction (called hypnic myoclonia).
NOTE: a person suffering sleep disordered breathing (SDB), presenting in the way of snoring and/or sleep apnoea, will more than likely have several light micro-sleeps during the night. Their sleep stage will not progress deeper than NREM stage 1 due to the body's natural survival response fight or flight. The response involuntarily arouses the sufferer constantly in order to resume breathing (see Diagram 1). This results in a feeling of tiredness when waking in the morning although the SDB sufferer has just spent the last 8 hours in bed.
Click the blue link to read more about Sleep Studies (polysomnogram)
(Diagram 1. Blocked airway due to the soft tissue collapsing while asleep reducing oxygen intake. Fight or flight response releases hormones to resume breathing. Person never progresses past NREM stage 1 sleep state. This can be repeated upward of and well over 100 times during the night.)
Stage 2: This is a period of light sleep during which sleep study readings show intermittent peaks and valleys, or positive and negative waves. These waves indicate spontaneous periods of muscle tone mixed with periods of muscle relaxation. The heart rate slows and the body temperature decreases. At this point, the body prepares to enter deep sleep.
Stages 3 and 4: These stages are known as slow-wave, or delta, sleep. They are both deep sleep stages, with stage 4 being more intense than Stage 3. If aroused from sleep during these stages, a person may feel disoriented for a few minutes.
Each stage can last from 5 to 15 minutes. A completed cycle of sleep consists of a progression from stages 1-4 before REM sleep is attained, then the cycle starts over again.
There are various lifestyle and environmental factors such as diet, bedtime routine, or bedroom design that can influence your quality of NREM sleep. Most factors can be easily managed (see tips to improve sleep health below). However, for a person suffering from SDB, overcoming the effects of snoring and/or sleep apnoea is much more difficult.
A SDB sufferer has no chance of attaining deep restorative NREM sleep, let alone REM sleep, as their body's natural fight or flight survival response arouses them several times a night by way of the adrenal medulla releasing hormones (catecholamines) to shock the SDB sufferer awake in order to resume breathing.
In essence, a person suffering SDB can have several light micro-sleeps during the night (no deeper than NREM stage 1,) resulting in a feeling of tiredness although they have just spent the last 8 hours in bed. As well as many other degenerative health consequences such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke (to name only a few). Instead of receiving good quality deep restorative sleep recommended by leading sleep neuroscientists.
Identifying the severity of sleep disordered breathing:
The only professionally recognised (Medicare approved) way to accurately assess the severity of SDB is by under-going a diagnostic sleep study (polysomnogram).
Professional grade sleep study technology monitors your breathing patterns and stoppages, cardiac activity, brain activity, limb movement, sleeping position, blood oxygen levels and much more.
Inferior ‘screening devices’ monitor only 2 or 4 signals which compromises your data results and can lead to inaccurate diagnosis and treatment.
An ‘in home’ diagnostic sleep study using a 10 channel monitoring system can now be professionally conducted in the comfort and privacy of your own home - Australia wide.
If you are uncertain whether a sleep study is required, Sleep Clinic Services offer a convenient online sleep self assessment questionnaire to help determine whether a sleep study is necessary. Once submitted, a friendly professional Sleep Therapist will review your data, then contact you to explain your results. The Sleep Therapist will also answer any questions and discuss treatment solutions available to you, obligation free (normally $65).
Book an In-Home Sleep Study
Tips to help improve sleep health:
If after following these tips you do not notice an improvement in your sleep health, contact Sleep Clinic Services immediately on 1300 246 637 and speak directly with a friendly professional sleep therapist, obligation free.
1. Establish a consistent bedtime routine. Go to bed at the same time every night (preferably before 9pm for kids aged 0-12 years)
2. Have an age-appropriate nap schedule (for children between 1 - 3 years)
3. Encourage your child to fall asleep independently
4. Make all bedrooms sleep conducive – cool, dark, and quiet
5. Avoid bright light at bedtime and during the night, and increase light exposure in the morning
6. Avoid heavy meals and vigorous exercise close to bedtime
7. Keep all electronics, including televisions, computers, and mobile phones, out of the bedroom and limit the use of electronics before bedtime
8. Avoid caffeine, including many fizzy drinks, coffee, and teas after 4pm
9. Wind down at least an hour before bedtime i.e. read a book for leisure and/or read with your child.
10. Keep a regular daily schedule, including consistent mealtimes
Sleep is the best medicine. Even Professor Jim Horne agrees, just like we eat and drink in excess for pleasure, "we also sleep for pleasure beyond necessity," so perhaps we should endeavour to enjoy that 7.8 in its entirety, a happy mind is a healthier mind after all.
DISCLAIMER - INFORMATION PROVIDED IN THIS ARTICLE IS GENERAL IN CONTENT AND SHOULD NOT BE SEEN AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE.
READ WHAT OTHER PATIENTS THINK:
Michael Hicks - "You literally saved my life!"
Jim Goldring - "I was going for periods of up to 1min 17secs without breathing!"
Belinda Skinner - "The results of my home sleep study were very prompt and explained in great detail"
References and further reading: