How Much Sleep Do I Really Need Per Night?
The average adult requires seven to nine hours of sleep per night. However, many people get far less than this, and nearly half of Americans report feeling sleepy three to seven days per week. With sleep being such a vital component of physical and mental wellbeing, it is alarming that so few of us are getting the sleep we need.
Sometimes, a lack of sleep can be caused by serious medical issues such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Testing for OSA can be expensive - but with Mira, you can get discounts on lab work, urgent care visits, and even 80% off on prescriptions. Try Mira today and sleep more soundly, knowing you are spending less on health care!
The Sleep Cycle
The body goes through four stages during sleep, including both rapid-eye-movement (REM) and non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) sleep. There are 3 NREM stages, which are progressively deeper and followed by one REM sleep stage. The deeper periods of sleep are associated with restfulness, while REM sleep is associated with dreaming. People who are sleeping a healthy amount usually have four to six sleep cycles per night.
Health Benefits of Sleep
Having a good night’s sleep may sound like a luxury, but it actually has important implications for your mental and physical health. The benefits of adequate sleep include:
- Boosting the immune system and improving your body’s response to vaccines (such as the COVID-19 vaccine).
- Preventing weight gain. When you sleep, your body releases a hormone called leptin which helps you feel full.
- Strengthening the heart. Lack of sleep causes the release of cortisol, a stress hormone that can make your heart work extra hard.
- Improving mood and reaction time. People who have not had enough sleep are four times more likely to get into a car accident compared to people getting the recommended number of hours. This can literally save your life.
- Improving memory. When you sleep, your body processes the memories you have formed over the course of the day.
Sleep Needs by Age Group
As we age, the number of hours we need to sleep each night decreases. The following table summarizes the number of hours of sleep needed for each age group:
Hours of Sleep Required For Each Age Group
Number of Hours of Sleep Per Day
|Preschool-age children||10-13 hours|
|School-age children||9-11 hours|
|18-64 years olds||7-9 hours|
|65+ years olds||7-8 hours|
Source: Sleep Foundation
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The Importance of Sleep Hygiene
With good sleep being so important, it’s understandable to want to do everything in your power to have the best sleep possible. That’s where having good sleep hygiene comes in. There are a number of habits recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (the CDC):
- Have a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. This includes on the weekends.
- Make yourself a comfortable sleeping environment by ensuring that your bedroom is dark, quiet, and at a pleasant temperature. Keep the decor in the room relaxing, and try to keep your bed a place where you sleep, rather than a place where you hang out or work during the day.
- Remove TVs, computers, and smartphones from your room and avoid the bright light of these screens in the hours leading up to bedtime.
- Avoid eating a large meal, consuming caffeine, or drinking alcoholic beverages in the hours leading up to bedtime.
- Exercise daily. There are many benefits to having an exercise routine. Exercising during the day can help you enjoy better sleep.
What You Need to Know About Sleep Disorders
For some people, sleep hygiene won’t be enough to help them have enough sleep because their insomnia is not caused by lifestyle but rather due to a sleep disorder. There are several sleep disorders, but the most common ones in the US include:
- Obstructive sleep apnea: Caused by a blockage of the airway during sleep, this disorder is very common and results in snoring, daytime sleepiness, and trouble with concentration.
- Restless legs syndrome: This condition entails an irresistible sensation of needing to move the legs, which usually occurs at night and leads to difficulty falling and staying asleep. It also causes daytime sleepiness, irritability, and concentration issues.
- Narcolepsy: Narcolepsy occurs when people lose control of their sleep-wake cycle. They can unexpectedly fall asleep during any activity, even in the middle of the day.
The first step to diagnosing a sleep disorder is discussing your symptoms with a trusted provider. If they have a suspicion that you are suffering from a sleep disorder. In that case, they will likely send you to do a sleep study, a test in which you sleep while hooked up to specialized equipment that gives doctors vital information regarding the quality of sleep you are getting.
Treating sleep disorders will depend on the cause. While they can sometimes be managed using medications, the most common sleep disorder, obstructive sleep apnea, will require treatment with a special machine called a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure). This machine helps keep the airway open, thus reversing the cause of obstructive sleep apnea.
Cost and Coverage of Sleep Disorder Treatment
Diagnosing and treating a sleep disorder can be quite costly if you don’t have insurance. The cost of an in-lab (which is done at a sleep clinic) sleep study can cost upwards of $3,000 without insurance. In-home sleep studies are a lot less expensive - usually between $300 and $600 without insurance.
If you are diagnosed with a sleep disorder that requires a CPAP machine, you’re looking at costs of $250 to over $1,000 without insurance, depending on the type of machine you choose. The accessories required to maintain a CPAP can be costly as well - filters cost between $5 to $30 each and mask sets can be over $100.
Luckily, most insurers cover either all or most of the cost of both sleep studies as well as CPAP machines. Medicare will also cover either in-home or in-lab sleep study, although the latter is covered only when it is ordered by a physician, and there is usually a 20% copay for such tests. For CPAP machines, Medicare will cover a 3-month trial, and will extend the coverage if your doctor feels that the CPAP is working.
Sleep and Sleep Disorders Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Getting enough sleep has many benefits to your health, and can certainly improve your wellbeing and mental state as well. To help you gain even more knowledge on this important issue, we’ve compiled some of the most frequently asked questions about sleep and sleep disorders for you below.
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Does daytime napping impact my quality of sleep at night?
Short naps generally shouldn’t affect your quality of sleep. That being said, for people who are already experiencing issues with sleep quality, napping in the day may make these problems worse. Here are some tips to avoid naps becoming too long or interfering with your sleep schedule:
- Nap for short periods of time - about 10 to 20 minutes.
- Try not to nap later than 3 pm. Naps closer to bedtime might interfere with your normal sleep schedule.
- Create a restful environment for napping to maximize the benefits.
If you keep the above advice in mind, naps are unlikely to impact your nighttime sleep and can actually improve your relaxation, wakefulness, performance, and mood.
How can I prepare for a sleep study?
There are a number of things you can do to best prepare for a sleep study:
- Try to avoid caffeine in any form in the evening before the study. This includes soda and coffee, but don’t forget that chocolate contains caffeine.
- Avoid alcohol on the day of the study.
- Wash your hair with shampoo only. Shampoos, gels, and oils can all interfere with the equipment’s sensors that will be used during the study.
- Pack a bag with comfortable pajamas, a change of clothes, and even a pillow. Try to ensure that you will be as comfortable as possible.
You can help obtain the best and most accurate results by following these tips.
How common are sleep disturbances or disorders?
Between 10 to 30% of adults have chronic insomnia, and this percentage is even higher among older adults. Women have a higher lifetime risk of insomnia than men. The proportion of individuals with sleep disorders is also high; 15-30% of males and 10-30% of females will be diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea within their lifetimes.
Getting a good night’s sleep is of the utmost importance to your physical and mental wellbeing. As we age, we require fewer hours of sleep per night (on average), but most adults will need between seven to nine hours per night. Sleep disorders can wreak havoc on your sleep cycle and may need professional investigation and treatment.
While this treatment is expensive, Mira can help you cut costs. With Mira, you get access to urgent care, lab testing, and prescriptions at discounts of up to 80%, all for just $45 per month.
Try Mira today and sleep soundly knowing that you’re saving money on healthcare!
Dvora is a recent medical graduate and current MPH student who is passionate about women’s health and health equity. She hopes to specialize in Obstetrics and Gynecology and is excited to join the Mira team in empowering people through healthcare. In her spare time she enjoys exercise, reading and spending time with her family and her dog, Dash.