If you get a full night’s sleep, but still feel tired in the morning, you may not be sleeping as soundly as you think. You may have a condition called sleep apnea, which results in constant sleep interruptions or “pauses” every night -- although you aren’t aware of them.
Let’s look at this issue of sleep duration, to see just how many hours are recommended every night. And let’s also investigate reasons (like sleep apnea) that could be depriving you of true restorative sleep.
How many hours’ sleep do you get?
Sleep duration is an important factor that contributes to good health. Although everyone’s needs are different, it’s generally agreed that adults should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night. Older adults aged 65 years old and above may function well with 7 or 8 hours per night.
When reading the recommendations, you could assume that as long as you get enough sleep, you’ll wake up refreshed and with enough energy to face the day ahead. But it’s also possible to get these hours of sleep and still feel tired.
The reasons you might not feel refreshed:
1. You may be the exception to the rule
The 7-9 hours recommendation applies to the majority of adults, but after all this is an average number and exceptions exist. Some adults may need more than 7 or 8 hours of sleep to feel their best during the day, and as long as there’s no underlying medical condition that’s nothing to be concerned about.
2. Changes to your body
The general rule of thumb is that younger people need more sleep and the amount needed decreases as we get older. So it may be the case that you felt fine getting 7 or 8 hours a few years ago, but now you need more – or less --hours of rest.
3. Poor health
Being in poor health can affect the quality of your nightly sleep, even if you get the recommended amount. Health problems may be temporary, for example having a cold, the flu, or back pain. There are other medical conditions that interfere with sound sleep, such as:
- Stress and mood disorders like anxiety, depression.
- Heartburn or acid reflux, a chronic condition that causes significant discomfort when laying down.
- Chronic conditions that affect the muscles or soft tissues. For example, joint inflammation caused by arthritis can become painful and affect someone’s ability to fall asleep. Fibromyalgia is also known to impair the deep sleep stage and cause multiple arousals through the night.
- Hormonal problems or imbalances, since our body clock is governed by hormones any changes to the endocrine system can result in sleep disruption.
4. Being on medication
Certain drugs can impact sleep quality or make you feel drowsy during the day. The most common include:
- Drugs to treat high blood pressure.
- Cold and flu medication.
- Drugs to treat thyroid dysfunction.
- Any medicines that contain caffeine.
5. You may have an underlying sleep disorder
Restless leg syndrome affects between 4% and 14% of the general population and the chances of developing it increase with age. People affected by this disorder feel the urge to move their legs when they’re in bed or experience leg twitching at night, both of which are disruptive to sleep.
Narcolepsy is a rare disorder whose main effects are fragmented or interrupted sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness, which in turn interferes with daily activities.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes people to wake up up to 100 times every night. Someone with obstructive sleep apnea would wake up every 12 minutes or so, even if they get 8 hours of sleep. This has a clear adverse impact on the quality of sleep, which is just as important as quantity, if not more.
Developing a sleep hygiene routine can go a long way helping you wake up with the energy you need. Some suggestions include:
- Limiting or eliminating alcohol before bedtime.
- Avoiding caffeine 4 to 6 hours before going to bed.
- Having a wind-down routine, which also means no intense exercise in the hours before bedtime. Instead, try gentle yoga, meditation, reading, or listening to relaxing music.
- Keeping the room well ventilated and at an adequate temperature (around 65F).
- Avoiding exposure to blue light, which means not using electronic devices like phone or tablets for at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
If you suffer from any form of sleep apnea, all of the above will help but it’s likely that you will need additional treatment to keep you breathing regularly while you’re asleep. A sleep specialist will assess your individual circumstances and recommend the right treatment, which could entail CPAP therapy, or nasal pillows.
At SleepQuest we can help you get an accurate diagnosis and outline a treatment plan that will reduce the impact and symptoms of OSA on your everyday life.