How much sleep do you really need? - WBCB: The Valley's CW |

How much sleep do you really need?

© / Jacob Wackerhausen © / Jacob Wackerhausen

By Anne-Sophie Reinhardt
Completely You

Sleep. We all wish we could have more of it, right? Especially since eight hours seems to be the magic number for rest and rejuvenation, according to some. But do we really need eight hours of sleep, or is this just another myth?

Steven Atchison, a personal development blogger at Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life, studied the topic of sleep before he wrote How to Become an Advanced Early Riser. According to Atchison, quality matters more than quantity.

"I could be asleep in bed for eight hours and only really get five hours of quality sleep, whereas I could get five hours of sleep per night, but all five of those hours are quality sleep time," Atchison says. "We can train our bodies to get by on five hours of sleep, but because there is this mindset of needing at least eight hours, we can't seem to wrap our heads around the idea that we can get less sleep and still have energy and be fit and healthy."

Great points—I'm certainly intrigued! However, I'm not sure if a mere five hours of sleep will do it for me. But conversely, there have been studies showing too much shuteye is detrimental to your health.

While looking over the sleep habits of one million Americans, Daniel Kripke, co-director of research at the Scripps Clinic Sleep Center in La Jolla, Calif., discovered that those who slept between 6.5 and 7.5 hours a night lived longer than those who got more than eight hours or fewer than six and a half hours.

After looking at the evidence, I'd bet that we're all basically in the right range when it comes to sleep and we may be worrying for nothing. But if you're having trouble snoozing, here are some tips that have worked for me:

Get up at the same time every single day. Yes, even on weekends! This will help regulate your body's clock.

Exercise every day. It doesn't have to be a hardcore workout all the time, but the simple act of moving does wonders for your blood circulation. Just don't work out too close to bedtime (do some yoga stretches instead).

Eat a small snack before you go to bed—emphasis on small. A warm glass of milk might even be better.

Don't lie awake for too long, even if you're having trouble sleeping through the night. Instead, do something you like (say reading) or get inspired to start something new. If anxiety is disrupting your zzzs, write down your worries and maybe even come up with some solutions. Don't go back to bed before you feel relaxed again.

Nap, but limit it to 30 minutes. If you're lucky enough to have the time to nap during lunch, go for it. Just limit your daytime snooze to a half hour max. Set an alarm clock to be safe.

Get outside more often during the day. You'll get exercise and fresh air, good ingredients for a better night's sleep.

Make sure your bedroom's conducive to a good night's sleep. Adjust the temperature (not too warm, not too cold), lights (not too bright) and noise levels (block out street sounds with a fan). Get rid of all your clocks, too. That way, you won't panic every time you wake up and glance at the time.

Be creative and think of your own, relaxing sleeping ritual.

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