The need for sleep is without question. However, sleep needs vary from person to person. Generally, you need enough sleep to feel alert and energized the next day.
There is no “magic” number to determine how much sleep you need. Too much sleep or too little sleep can be problematic and can compromise your health and well-being.
Too little sleep can result in devastating health problems, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular problems, mental health (see mental health and sleep), drug abuse, and even automobile accidents.
Lack of sleep combined with alcohol and can greatly exaggerate the effects of alcohol and is responsible for many driving accidents and death. So, instead of the effects of a couple of alcoholic drinks, lack of sleep combined with alcohol can dramatically decrease reaction time, cognitive functioning, attention, and, of course, drowsiness and you end up using sleeping pills for a quality sleep.
On the other hand, too much sleep can also have health consequences. People who sleep too little (less than 6 hours per night) or too much (more than 9 hours per night) have a higher rate of mortality. Some people actually feel more sluggish when they sleep longer than usual… called the “Rip Van Winkle effect”.
Also, it is not only the amount of sleep but the quality of your sleep that is important. Time in bed does not determine the quality of your sleep. Total sleep time is a better measure of your sleep need. In fact, there is a ratio, called the sleep efficiency ratio: time in bed / total sleep time gives you your sleep efficiency ratio.
Many people make the mistake of trying to self-medicate for better sleep using alcohol. Yet alcohol is one of the worst ways to treat sleep. Why?
First, as with any drug, you can develop a tolerance to alcohol, which means you would have to take more and more alcohol to have the same effect.
Second, alcohol actually disrupts sleep. While it may be helpful to help you get to sleep, the proper stages of sleep are disrupted and it results in fragmented, poor quality of sleep.
There are more natural remedies that can assist sleep (see Herbal Remedies for sleep). In addition, lifestyle changes to include proper amount of exercise, diet, and stress management can also help you to get a good night€™s sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) 2008 Sleep in America poll, 6 hours and 55 minutes is the average time spent in bed, with 6 hours and 40 minutes actually spent sleeping. NSF recommends 7 to 9 hours of sleep for most people. However, you need to bear in mind that the amount of sleep you need varies with the individual and can be influenced by a host of factors discussed above.