How Many Hours of Sleep Do You Really Need?
Guess what? These two numbers go hand in hand.
So many of my clients are terrible sleepers. They can’t fall asleep because their minds are racing or they fall asleep, but can’t stay asleep. Or they wake to use the bathroom and then wander into the kitchen at 3AM. Or they sleep OK, but wake exhausted. And they eventually end up in my office, asking for diet plans and how to lose weight. This is yet another example where I preach, “It’s not just about the food!”
“Sleep deep” is a Nutritious Life pillar because how many hours of sleep you get affects your wellness and waistline as much as the healthy foods you eat, the exercise you practice and the stress you manage does.
See, sleep deprivation messes up the hormones that regulate hunger, causing an increase in appetite and specific cravings for calorie-dense, high-carbohydrate foods. So after a long night, there is indeed a reason you are reaching for the bagel and cream cheese at 7am instead of your normal healthy breakfast of hard boiled eggs and berries.
Research shows that sleeping only 4 hours per night for 2 nights causes leptin — the hormone that tells your body to stop eating — to drop 18%. And levels of ghrelin — the hormone that says “eat more”– jump 28 percent. Again, there is a reason you can’t stop chowing after pulling an all-nighter. Buh-bye healthy eating, so long balanced diet.
Now keep in mind this happened after just 2 nights of sleep deprivation…just imagine what happens after weeks and weeks of missing sleep! No wonder your pants are tight, right?!
So, how many hours of sleep do you need to be the healthiest you possible?
Adults are supposed to get about 7-9 hours of sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. If you only get 6 hours, your risk of developing obesity rises 23%, if you only get 5, it increases 50%, and if you only get 4, it increases a whopping 73%!
The thing is, if you want to improve your sleep, you’ve gotta work on your nighttime behaviors, just like you practice brushing and flossing or washing and cutting fruits and veggies right when you get home from the grocery store.
What can you work on to better up your shut eye?
- If you wake up to pee, stop drinking 2 hours before bedtime and try to go right before you turn in for the night.
- If you fall asleep, but wake up a few hours later, give up all alcohol for a few days and see if it helps, or jot down your biggest stressors in a journal immediately before you turn in to quiet your mind.
- If you’re sleeping, but not feeling rested, flip your mattress, adjust the temperature in your bedroom, buy yourself new pillows or invest in snore-strips for your wake-the-dead, apnea challenged spouse. If you’ve flipped the mattress and that isn’t working, I’ll let you in on a secret – invest in an Essentia mattress. They are the only organic memory foam mattress available and I’m telling you, you’ll sleep like a babe.
- Can’t fall asleep? Ditch the caffeine after noontime and exercise in the morning, rather than the evening.
Tonight, I want you to stare at the inside of your eyelids with the curtains drawn, in your favorite jammies, with your iPhone silenced, no matter what. Stop making lists in your mind or preparing for tomorrow’s presentation or folding the laundry. Tonight is about sleep. That’s it.
If you sleep well, you’ll eat a better breakfast tomorrow morning, which might motivate you to eat a better lunch, which might motivate you to hit the gym, which might make you sleep better tomorrow night, which might help you drop those pounds you’ve been struggling with. Done and done.