You might consider getting seven hours of sleep each night a luxury, but your body probably needs at least this much to function properly.
“Sleep is absolutely critical to our overall functionality,” said Dr. Helene Emsellum, medical director for the Center for Sleep & Wake Disorders. “Sleep restores us both physically as well as psychologically. We can take on the next day with a clear head to get to the things we need to do.”
Emsellum says adults need an average of 7-9 hours of sleep a night.
“I like to think of seven hours of sleep as the lower legal limit…. You drop below six hours of sleep a night, we can put you on a driving simulator and you’ll drive drunk.”
Young children need 10-11 hours of sleep, adolescents need 8.5-9.25 hours of sleep a night.
She says our brains need sleep in order to properly store the information gathered each day.
“During the night we have to prioritize information, we need to store the memories we want to keep.”
Sleeping your way to your ideal weight
A good sleep routine can also help a person maintain a proper body weight. “Our weight control is based on adequate sleep.”
“The reality is, if you overstay your welcome in wakefulness … and you don’t get your minimum threshold of adequate sleep, a whole system of hormones in your body ….direct the cells to store more calories at any moment in time.”
If you are on a diet but not losing any pounds, you might want to try getting some extra sleep.
Light is not your Friend
Establishing a healthy sleep routine can be a challenge.
“We live in this crazy 24/7 lit society,” said Dr. Emsellum. “…. it really does take discipline (to get a good night’s sleep). We don’t have ten hours of mandatory darkness our ancestors had 150 years ago at night.”
Because of this, Dr. Emsellum suggests creating a routine that offers ‘wind down’ time that separates day from night. Staring at a bright computer screen too late in the evening can make it harder to get to sleep, so try to log off at least an hour before going to bed. Sleeping in a dark room can also help you get a good night sleep.
Learn more in my conversation with Dr. Helene Emsellum.
This interview was produced by Carolyn Branson. Thanks, Carolyn!