How Much Sleep Do We Really Need? March 24, 2017 19:53 1 Comment

In this world we are admired for busyness which has been a gripe of mine for ages now (My Year of No). Every minute of the day should be accounted for and used “productively”. We are encouraged to constantly accrue material wealth and possessions at any cost. Things are made cheaper and faster so we can amass as much as we possibly can. It doesn’t matter the consequences, and it doesn’t matter the debt. In our efforts to keep up, we drive ourselves deeper and deeper into a place where we owe so much that it becomes impossible to repay.

This sort of mindset doesn’t make it easy to sleep at night. The stress caused is extreme, largely unnecessary, and we end up in a downward spiral of accumulated sleep debt.

Whether or not we commit to a healthy diet and regular exercise, we are all aware of how important they are to our well-being. What we often set aside though, is the importance of sleep. We need to understand that sleep is like nutrition and we have a required daily allowance.

Why Is Sleep Important? 

We don’t yet know everything there is to know about the importance of sleep, but we do know that it is essential for memory, brain development and cognitive function.

Sleep deprivation also wreaks havoc on your health. One of the primary reasons for this is because it is essential for your metabolism.


I’ve used the word metabolism so often, but only recently have I learnt what a fascinating process it is.

Simply put, the body digests food into compounds (amino acids, fatty acids and sugar), which can then be transported through the blood to the cells. Metabolism is the process whereby the cell converts those compounds into energy, and disposes of the metabolic waste.

In order to maintain homeostasis or balance, the cell adjusts to its environment and external conditions.

According to Forbes, a normal adult needs 7-8 hours sleep every 24 hours for effective metabolic waste removal.

When we’re in sleep debt, our cells aren’t able to maintain the balance necessary and we become susceptible to the following:

  1. Diabetes

The body isn’t able to properly control insulin and glucose and even one night of insufficient sleep can lead to glucose dysregulation.

  1. Increased appetite

The appetite centre is controlled by 2 hormones, one which suppresses your appetite (ghrelin) and one which promotes a feeling of hunger (leptin). During the sleep cycle, these hormones balance themselves out as needed. When we’re sleep deprived, ghrelin is reduced and leptin increased, so we tend to eat more when we’re tired.

In addition, studies have shown that subjects tend to crave high carbohydrate foods.

  1. Compromised immune system

There is a strong relationship between good, restorative sleep and maintaining the immune system. Sleep deprivation is also linked to daytime inflammatory mediators.

  1. Increased Hypertension

Ever noticed how short your fuse is when you haven’t slept enough? Your blood pressure is significantly increased when you sleep for less than 5 hours.

  1. Symptoms of Depression

Insomnia has a strong link to depression, and people diagnosed with anxiety or depression are more likely to struggle sleeping. The one feeds off the other, creating a vicious cycle.

  1. Premature ageing

Sleep loss increases the release of the stress hormone, cortisol, which decreases the collagen in the skin. The body also releases less of the human growth hormone.

     7. Hair Loss

The increased levels of stress that result from the lack of sleep, and the reduced capacity for normal cellular functioning, may result in conditions of hair loss or thinning hair as well. Click here for more information.


Finally, here is the breakdown of how much sleep you need:

  • 0 to 3 months of age: 14 to 17 hours
  • 4 to 11 months of age: 12 to 15 hours
  • 1 to 2 years of age: 11 to 14 hours
  • 3 to 5 years of age: 10 to 13 hours
  • 6 to 13 years of age: 9 to 11 hours
  • 14 to 17 years of age: 8 to 10 hours
  • 18 to 25 years of age: 7 to 9 hours
  • 26 to 64 years of age: 7 to 9 hours
  • 65 and older: 7 to 8 hours

So when you’re drawing up your to-do list during your night time routine , remember to add sleep into your schedule and treat it as a priority. Then take great joy in ticking it off in the morning!