Sleep is the time when our brain invokes its ‘automatic daily spring cleaning’. Like anyone who has performed spring cleaning or any form of cleaning or tidying up will know that you need to have a set process which you follow. For instance, you will need to sort out and group items along the lines of keep, recycle, junk etc. and then ‘bag’ them and take them where they need to be. Thereafter you will literally clean the house, dust, wipe, vacuum before you do any repairs or touch up with paintwork, etc. and then rearrange the contents.

In this series, I will be examining why it’s the quality and not the quantity of sleep we have is crucial to the health and well-being of our mental and physical body. This series comprises:

  • PART 1: Why Spring Cleaning the Mind is Necessary
  • PART 2: Spring Cleaning Sleep Cycle
  • PART 3: The Right Amount of Sleep
  • PART 4: How to achieve quality Sleep

Part 3: The Right Amount of Sleep

In Part 1, the importance of the need to sleep was highlighted as the mind’s natural way of performing a ‘spring clean’ to process and ‘file’ experiences, feelings, thoughts etc. into appropriate places as well as making long-term memory connections. In Part 2, it was shown the various stages the brain ‘spring cleans’ and the sleep cycle. There was also a potential list of disorders that arise in children, young adolescents and adults.

In this Part 3, we look at what is the right amount of sleep and how do we know when we have had our fill.

As we age, the amount of sleep that we require changes as indicated in the chart by the National Sleep Foundation below (click to enlarge).

The chart is a general guideline and there will be exceptions to the rule. Mostly, all with the exception of adults are mostly aligned to the chart.

For adults, there is no recommended optimal sleep duration as individual needs vary significantly based on their personal and socio-economical environment as well as a genetic predilection. Age is a significant factor with older adults needing fewer hours whilst children require more than the average. Broadly speaking, there are three basic sleep groups that people fall into:

  • “long”
    Broadly 6-10% of the adult population appears to need on average 9 or 10 hours or more a night like Einstein (10-12 hours), Mariah Carey (15 hours).
  • “short”
    Around 5% need on average 6 hours a day, although, in extreme instances, 2-3 hours does very well without experiencing daytime sleepiness or impaired performance like Napoleon, Florence Nightingale, Louis XIV, Edison, Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.
  • “average”
    Around 85% typically needs around 8 hours of sleep a night, although receives around 7-7.5 hours.

If you find that you are either getting too much or too little sleep for your age group, it does not mean that you are going to suffer from sleep disruptive disorders or have specific psychological problems.

During our lifetimes, the amount of sleep we have naturally varies based on our age, general health & lifestyle and the fact that we are all different from each other.

Causes of Oversleeping

One may not have thought that having too much sleep (medically termed as Hypersomnia) would be considered equally as bad as insufficient quality sleep. Oversleep may be a side effect of certain medications however it is more strongly associated with physical problems such as suffering an illness such as the flu, heart disease, diabetes; Psychological disorders such as lack of motivation, anxiety and depression; Or a fusion of both because of addictions.

What is not widely known is that people who sleep nine or more hours a night have a significantly higher probability of death. It remains a mystery as to why this is the case and it is suggested that based on the negative psychological & physical and socio-economic outlook of the people has a strong unconscious desire for death.

Signs of the onset of potential disruptive sleep disorder

Unfortunately, there are no consistent tell-tell signs that point the way to the onset of sleep problems. After piecing together the findings of many studies the common early signs to look out for are:

  • increased confused thinking/assessment of the information at hand,
  • increased irrationality and illogical actions, and,
  • increased likelihood of losing emotional control and easily getting angered
  • disruption of the body’s circadian rhythm,
  • hormonal balance particularly the stress hormones,
  • the absorption of essential minerals and proteins and secretion of waste products.

If sleep is disrupted for a long and continuous period, then it may increase the risk of developing particular mental illnesses and vice versa.

In Part 4, the potential root causes of over sleeping and disruptive sleep are examined with possible resolutions that can be implemented.