How Much Sleep Should You Be Getting?

NJ Spotlight News | March 4, 2015 | Health Care
Health professionals say adults should get 7-8 hours of sleep each night and adolescents should sleep 8-9 hours.

By Lauren Wanko

It looks pretty appealing — fluffy pillows, a comfy bed turned down for a good night’s sleep. Except most of us aren’t getting enough of it and end up with sleep debt.

“Sleep debt is that if you lack of sleep say for one hour today and each day you lack one hour you accumulate so after a certain time your debt is overwhelming and you crash,” said Dr. Sue X. Ming, Professor of Neurosciences at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

Dr. Ming says adults need seven to eight hours of sleep each night.

When asked how much sleep she gets per night, Manahawkin resident Christina McGee said, “Maybe five hours or so.”

“No I definitely do not get enough sleep at night,” said Sharon Ross of Oakridge.

Kids and adolescents need even more — eight to nine hours. Dr. Ming found most high school students aren’t getting the right amount of shut eye because they have their own unique circadian rhythm — a biological clock. They tend to fall asleep later and wake up later. But the alarms go off early for school.

“We did a survey asking high school students in New Jersey what time you have to get up and quite a high proportion of them say they get up at 5:30 a.m.,” Dr. Ming said.

Which ultimately means they’re depriving themselves of the much needed REM sleep stage. The result? Lack of focus and concentration. There are three stages of sleep — shallow, when you can be woken up easily; deep sleep; and dream sleep or REM, which occurs in the early morning hours, anywhere from 4 to 7 a.m.

“During REM sleep you make your memories. Memories can be synthesized into a permanent protein and it’s stored away so you’ll be able to retrieve that. Recent memory also laid down during REM sleep so that portion of sleep is critical for someone who wants to learn using prior knowledge,” Dr. Ming said.

iPads and phones often end up on bedside tables. Late night text message alerts can cause anxiety, says Dr. Ming, which could lead to lots of tossing and turning. And then there’s the TV. The doctor’s order? Turn it off.

“Every night I know I need more sleep, but I have to have that TV on,” McGee said.

“I get caught up on a movie channel that I’m watching and next thing I know it’s past my bed time,” said Beth Estelle of Colts Neck.

For those who are having trouble sleeping, Dr. Ming recommends people get sleep ready — that means avoid bright lights, strenuous activity, arguments, loud music and even hot liquids or a hot bath because the temperature can be alerting to your brain.

There’s a way to pay back the sleep debt, says Dr. Ming — by sleeping in on the weekends.

“Sleep is an essential portion of your life,” she said.

So tonight, turn off the lights and sleep tight.