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How much sleep do I need?

A dodgy sleep cycle can seriously affect the way you live your life. Let show you how to shape up your shut-eye.

Girl lying in her bed

Can I stay in bed forever?

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Why do we sleep?

To make sure our bodies don’t burn out through constant wear and tear, it’s important we rest on a regular basis. As a result, our bodies are fitted with biological clocks:

  • The biological clock runs in sleep/wake cycles and works by tweaking certain hormone levels in our bodies.
  • When our mental and physical function start to slip each day, the biological clock starts to wind down adrenaline levels, a naturally occurring stimulant. Ultimately, this persuades us that it’s time to head for bed.
  • Once we’re asleep, the body can then carry out essential repair work.
  • Growth hormones become more active during our horizontal hours, while the brain and eyes get the protein they need to function properly.
  • As we come out of the sleep cycle, adrenaline kicks in again, speeding up body function and ultimately waking us.

How much do I need?

On average, between five and nine hours each night. It’s different for everyone, so check out the following steps to get yourself the sleep you need:

  • Go to bed at the same time: Establish a routine. Hit the sack when you feel tired at the end of each day, so your body clock doesn’t have to work hard at getting you to stop.
  • Get up when you wake up: If you stir before your alarm then get out of bed. Obeying your body clock might be a chore but you’ll feel more alert through the day.
  • Get into shape: Regular work-outs reduce sleep-stopping adrenaline. It also drinks up excess energy that could leave you with your sheets in a tangle.
  • Eat sensibly: Avoid eating last thing at night or going to bed hungry. If you’re stuffed or starving, your stomach won’t let you rest.
  • Check out your bedding: For a good night’s sleep, osteopaths recommend a firm, level and supported mattress. Otherwise, a sheet of plywood underneath should provide the support you need. As sleep is best with room temperature between 15-21 c make sure your duvet isn’t too heavy. Also wear loose-fitting cotton night garments to allow your skin to breathe.
  • Relax before bedtime: Herbal remedies can help reduce stress and get you into the right mind frame: basil, camomile, lettuce and marjoram all have a calming effect.

Too little sleep?

Here are the signs that you’re not getting enough:

  • Fatigue: If you’re out of rhythm with your sleep cycle, then at some point in your waking hours your body will start begging you to lie down.
  • You forget things, and make bad decisions: Fatigue affects your mental capacity. If you’re up and about during a sleep cycle then your ability to remember things starts to slip, and patience can wear thin.
  • Your physical reactions slow down: When you’re tired, your body slows down in order to conserve energy. As a result, mundane tasks can become harder to carry out, while your reaction times take a nose dive.
  • Your appearance starts to suffer: Your skin won’t get revitalised, your eyes lose their sparkle and your immune system weakens.

Next Steps

  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.


Updated on 25-Sep-2012

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