For example, in general:
- Infants require about 14-15 hours a day.
- Teenagers need about 8.5-9.5 hours on average.
- Most adults need 7 to 9 hours a night for the best amount of sleep, although some people may need as few as 6 hours or as many as 10 hours of sleep each day.
- Women in the first 3 months of pregnancy often need several more hours of sleep than usual.
However, experts say that if you feel drowsy during the day, even during boring activities, you haven’t had enough sleep.
Sleep Deprivation Debits
The amount of sleep a person needs also increases if he or she has been deprived of sleep in previous days. Getting too little sleep creates a “sleep debt,” which is much like being overdrawn at a bank. Eventually, your body will demand that the debt be repaid. We don’t seem to adapt to getting less sleep than we need, while we may get used to a sleep-depriving schedule, our judgment, reaction time, and other functions are still impaired.
Consequences of Too Little Sleep
Too little sleep may cause:
- Memory problems
- A weakening of your immune system, increasing your chance of becoming sick
- Increase in perception of pain
The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation
Many studies make it clear that sleep deprivation is dangerous. Sleep-deprived people who are tested by using a driving simulator or by performing a hand-eye coordination task perform as badly as or worse than those who are intoxicated.
Sleep deprivation also magnifies alcohol’s effects on the body, so a fatigued person who drinks will become much more impaired than someone who is well rested.
Driver fatigue is responsible for an estimated 100,000 motor vehicle accidents and 1,550 deaths each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Since drowsiness is the brain’s last step before falling asleep, driving while drowsy can — and often does — lead to disaster. Caffeine and other stimulants cannot overcome the effects of severe sleep deprivation.
The National Sleep Foundation says you are probably too drowsy to drive safely if you:
- Have trouble keeping your eyes focused
- Can’t stop yawning
- Can’t remember driving the last few miles
- Are daydreaming and have wandering thoughts
- Have trouble holding your head up
- Are drifting in and out of lanes
When Your Partner Has a Sleep Disorder
When your partner has a sleep disorder, it’s a good bet he or she is not the only one missing out on a good night’s rest. More than likely, your sleep is being affected, too. In fact, having a partner with a sleep disorder can cause you to lose nearly one hour of sleep every night. That adds up to 12.5 full days of lost sleep each year.
This loss of sleep can have a major impact on your health and well-being. In rare instances, such as with the flailing movements of REM (rapid eye movement) behavior disorder, your partner’s sleep disorder could be putting even your physical health in nightly jeopardy. A partner’s sleep disorder can also affect your personal life. One out of every three adults with a snoring partner says he or she has relationship problems as a result of a partner’s disordered sleep.
Encourage Your Partner to Seek Help for a Sleep Disorder
Your spouse might be snoring loud enough to wake the neighbors. Or perhaps your spouse is sleepwalking throughout the entire house. But as long as he or she sleeps through the night, your partner might not even realize there is a problem.
You could grin and bear it — bleary-eyed though you may be — out of respect for your spouse. But it’s important to realize that encouraging your partner to get medical attention is a sign you care.
Take snoring, for instance, one of the most common sleeping problems. It could be harmless, but it could also be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, which causes people to stop breathing momentarily during sleep. This dangerous condition afflicts nearly 5% of middle-aged men and can also occur in women, though much less often. And it can lead to a host of medical problems, including death.
At other times, a sleeping problem might not be a true sleep disorder. Instead, it could be a symptom of another medical problem. For instance, a number of medical conditions, including heart disease and depression, can cause insomnia. Properly recognizing and treating the underlying condition can alleviate your partner’s abnormal sleeping habits.
If you notice a change in your partner’s sleeping habits or if your spouse’s sleep disorder is negatively affecting your sleep, encourage you partner to consult his or her doctor. You can even help your partner keep a detailed sleep diary for a couple of weeks to document the symptoms. That will help the doctor identify the problem and prescribe the appropriate treatment.
Help Your Partner Manage the Sleep Disorder
Once your partner’s sleep disorder has been identified, there are plenty of ways that you can help him or her deal with the diagnosis and manage the condition. That will ultimately mean a better night’s rest for both of you.