Why You Need 7 Hours of Sleep
Core - Edition Nº21
I saw this Twitter thread recently and thought I’d expand on it.
If you sleep well and exercise regularly—but don’t get at least seven hours of sleep each night, you’re spoiling all your hard work. We’ve all encountered that zombie-like drowsiness after a night of little-to-zero sleep. And we all know how horrible it feels. Just one night of poor sleep can harm your thinking, energy levels, and mood.
On top of that, as mentioned in that thread, under seven hours of sleep a night can increase your risk of:
High blood pressure
Above all, sleep must be a priority when it comes to mastering our health. “We always recommend a good diet and exercise to everyone, but along the same lines we recommend proper sleep as well.” says sleep expert Michelle Drerup, PsyD, DBSM.
The short and long-term impacts are noticeable when we ignore our sleep needs. And while the short-term effects are typically more noticeable, chronic sleep deprivation can heighten the long-term risk of physical and mental health problems.
The different definitions
Before moving on to how to make things better, it’s important at least to know the main definitions and types of sleep problems.
Acute sleep deprivation refers to the short period (a few days or less) when someone has poor sleep.
Chronic sleep deprivation, or insufficient sleep syndrome, is said to be “curtailed sleep that persists for three months or longer.”
You should also know the difference between sleep insomnia and sleep deprivation. People with insomnia have trouble sleeping even when they have plenty of time for a good night’s sleep. In contrast, people with sleep deprivation don’t have enough time for sleep because of poor choices or everyday obligations.
The three factors influencing your sleep
Several factors can influence your sleep quality and quantity, but these are the top three:
All require investments which pay big dividends for your energy levels.
Including watching TV in bed, there are several distractions that that can ruin your bedtime. There’s a rule stating everything between you and the ground should be highest quality, top priority. So, naturally, this includes your pillow and mattress.
It also helps to have a ritual that lulls your mind and body into sleep mode. A ritual that involves reading, stretching, breathing exercises or eating a light, healthy snack can set a perfect tone within to help you conk out as soon as your head hits the pillow.
Blackout curtains and non-straining light can significantly affect how easily you sleep. A typically lit home, with light from the outside, can produce 300-500 lux. Lux is used to measure all types of natural and artificial light. For instance, a sunny day might have your environment providing around 150,000 lux, whereas a cloudy winter day may produce 1,000 lux. Appropriate pre-bedtime lux levels should be less than 180 lux, and after light’s out: your bedtime should be no higher than 5 lux. In other words, keep it dark!
Our circadian rhythm regulates our sleep. It’s based on the light-and-dark cycle of the sun and is controlled by our suprachiasmatic nucleus—located within the hypothalamus. It gets cues from several environmental and personal factors, including temperature. And it’s vital to ensure our room temperature compliments our fluctuating body temperature as we sleep.
Typically, our core body temperature is around 37℃ (98.6℉) ±2℉. And as heat moves away from our core to our extremities (hands and feet), our core body temperature continues to fall throughout the night until it warms up as the morning progresses. And throughout the night, two hours after we sleep, our body temperature drops, coinciding with the release of melatonin (our sleep-wake hormone).
Closing the blinds during the day to reduce heat build-up, air conditioning, and improving ventilation at home can help you cool down and reduce sweating. Fluctuations in light, diet, and exercise also impact our body temperature and potential sleepiness.
While it can vary, 15.6-19.4℃ (60-67℉) is ideal for your thermostat or overall room temperature.
Here are eight more tips to help perfect your sleep.
Get 5-15 minutes of sunlight straight after waking up. As the sun helps regulate your master body clock, splashing a bit of sunlight on you in the morning will make it easier to fall asleep at night.
Caffeine kills both sleep quantity and quality. It blocks adenosine receptors which helps adenosine (a sleep-promoting hormone) help you get to sleep. Ideally, stop drinking caffeine after 12pm. Or, allow for a 10-hour gap between your drink and bedtime.
Yes, you can exercise before bed. As long as it’s not vigorous activity at least one hour before bedtime.
Avoid blue light before bed. Blue light suppresses melatonin release and makes it harder for sleep to happen. It comes from your phone, computer, and artificial lights. Either wear blue light-blocking glasses or activate the setting on all your devices.
Relax. Don’t engage in activities that leave “open loops”. When your brain has unresolved problems, it’ll keep you awake trying to solve them. Of course, some people prefer to work at night, but you need to widen the gap between working and bedtime.
Journal. While stimulating activities create open loops, journaling helps close them. Writing allows you to work through problems and pen solutions; this enables you to store your problems elsewhere, so your brain doesn’t have to bear the weight at the front of your mind. It can ease your mind as a result.
Mediation is very effective. Just 10 minutes can reduce your anxiety, heart rate, and blood pressure. It’ll help you fall and stay asleep (here’s a form I like).
Keep it consistent. If you only applied one of these tips, ensure it’s this one. Your body has an internal clock, as I’ve mentioned. But if you change your sleeping patterns abruptly, you’ll throw it off. So, create a schedule and stick to it. You’ll fall asleep faster and wake up more refreshed.