As a Nurse and Naturopath, I’m frequently questioning my patients about their sleep- how long do they sleep for, do they wake up overnight- how many times and why, how do they feel when they wake up in the morning?

And the list goes on!

I ask a lot of questions around sleep because I know it’s such an important part of a healthy mind and body and because sleep deprivation can have serious effects on a person’s health.

? Effects of Sleep Deprivation ?

  1. Weight Gain- children sleeping <10 hours a night are 89% more likely to be obese while adults sleeping <5 hours a night are 55% more likely to be obese
  2. Increased Calories eaten- sleep deprived individuals have a bigger appetite and eat more calories, they have higher levels of ghrelin (hormone that stimulates appetite) and reduced levels of leptin (hormone that suppresses appetite)
  3. Reduced Concentration and Productivity- sleep is important for cognition, concentration, productivity and performance. Tasks that require attention are particularly sensitive to sleep loss and sleep deprivation increases distractibility
  4. Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke- a review of 15 studies found that people who don’t get enough sleep are at a greater risk of heart disease or stroke than those who sleep for 7-8 hours a night
  5. Glucose Metabolism and Type 2 Diabetes Risk- sleep deprivation affects blood sugar and reduces insulin sensitivity. Sleeping less than 6 hours a night has been shown to be a risk factor for developing Type 2 Diabetes
  6. Anxiety and Depression- mental health issues are strongly linked to poor sleep quality and quantity
  7. Immune Function- sleep deprivation suppresses immune function with people who sleep less than 7 hours a night being 3 times more likely to develop a cold than those who sleep longer than 7 hours
  8. Increased Inflammation- sleep loss activates inflammatory mediators in the body which is big risk factor for chronic disease
  9. Decreased Sex Drive- sleep deprivation and disturbed sleep are associated with decreased libido and sexual dysfunction
  10. Increased risk of accidents- driving when sleep deprived is similar to drunk driving and greatly increases the risk of accidents and near misses
  11. Reduced Muscle Building- lack of sleep causes hormonal changes that make it harder for the body to build muscle and heal
  12. Increased pain- sleep deprivation may actually cause pain or at least increase people’s sensitivity to pain

How much sleep do you really need?

There isn’t a one size fits all approach to the number of hours of sleep your brain needs. It depends on a variety of factors, one of these being age. Remembering that every person has different needs, research has provided some guides as to the average amount of sleep needed for different age groups:

  • 0 to 3 months: should aim to get between 14 and 17 hours in a 24-hour period
  • 4 to 11 months: should aim to get between 12 and 15 hours
  • 1 to 2 years: should aim to get between 11 and 14 hours
  • 3 to 5 years: should aim to get between 10 and 13 hours
  • 6 to 13 years: should aim to get between 7 and 8 hours
  • 14 to 17 years: should aim to get between 8 and 10 hours
  • 18 to 64 years: should aim to get between 7 and 9 hours
  • 65 years and above: should aim to get between 7 and 8 hours

Sleeping too much is as bad as sleeping too little

Research findings reveal that sleeping for too many hours can actually be just as damaging as sleeping for too few hours. This means that as tempting as it may be, sleeping for 12 hours on a Sunday night might do your body more harm than good.

Keeping a Sleep Diary

If you’re not exactly sure how much sleep your brain needs, try keeping a sleep diary. Write down the time you go to bed, making adjustments in the morning if it’s taken you a while to fall asleep and log the time you wake up and how you feel when you wake up. At the end of the day, write down your energy level and if you noticed any issues in your daily work. Did you have trouble focusing? Were you more or less productive than normal? Did you feel a little short-tempered? Did you have problems keeping your thinking positive? How was your mood, stress and anxiety levels?
After doing this for a period of time, you can spot the optimal sleep length for your best daily functioning and health. You might even notice the best times for you to head to bed and wake up.

If you’re having trouble getting enough sleep, Naturopaths have plenty of things in their toolbox to help. Make an appointment to see me at ReMed Natural Medicine Clinic in Lower Plenty by booking online or call 1300 163 733.