How many hours of sleep do you need?

Sleep is an essential need for our bodies and our brains. It is during sleep that our minds go over the events of the day and form long-term memory. Without adequate sleep, of at least 7-9 hours a night, we are not able to function at optimum levels, and we certainly will not able to learn or remember anywhere near as much as we could. Sleep is not just a memory improvement technique – it is a memory builder.

Millions of Americans have trouble getting to, or staying asleep, and turn to sleep aids in the form of sleep medication. More than 56 million prescriptions for sleeping pills were filled in 2008, and another $600 million was spent on over-the-counter sleep aids. Studies now indicate that these medications may actually produce more harm than good, and may not provide any help at all. 

The United States Food and Drug Administration has put together information that covers over 15 years of records pertaining to how much of an aid over-the-counter sleep medications are, according to a recent CBS News report. Although the article did not say as to why it took 15 years for this information to come out, but sleep products such as Tylenol PM and Excedrin PM are said to not do much when it comes to benefiting a person with trouble getting to or staying asleep. “The data suggests the combination products are statistically better than a placebo but not by much,” the report says.

A 2007 study, financed by the National Institutes of Health, found that medications like the most frequently prescribed Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata, only shrank the average sleep time by just under 13 minutes, even though he subjects actually thought they had slept up to an hour longer when taking the pills. According to the study, these pills actually make it more difficult to naturally get a good night’s rest, and could also greatly increase your risk of dementia!

Medications often simply work on the symptoms, and don’t address the real reasons behind the problem. Not only that, many sleeping pills and other medication can be highly addictive, quitting will bring on withdrawal, which is far worse than insomnia. 

Other side effects from the use of sleeping medication include:

  •  The effectiveness of the medication, when taken over long periods of time, is reduced. If you take sleep medication for longer than two weeks you will need to increase the dose to get the same effect.
  • Cravings for unusual food, not to mention grazing in the middle of the night, may occur with sleep medication. This leads to weight gain.
  • Taking sleep medication and then driving leads to impaired driving, much the same as driving drunk. According to some state toxicology labs, among the top 10 drugs found in the system of drivers who drive impaired is the drug “Ambien.”
  • The risk of falls and injuries, especially to the elderly, due to waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom or kitchen are increased when taking sleep medicatio
  • Even after the medication has worn off you may awake and feel drowsy or light-headed.

A person with sleep problems should look at alternative and more natural ways to get a better night’s sleep. If the problem persists they should consult a doctor who can check out their blood pressure and stress levels (the main cause of sleep problems), and find the root cause of their problem – not just get medicate it away.

According to a study conducted at Stanford University Medical School, volunteers who took a moderate-intensity exercise program for 16 weeks were able to get to asleep about 15 minutes earlier, and sleep about 45 minutes longer at night. Exercise done a few hours before bedtime gets the blood flowing and helps to de-stress.

Meditation, drinking herbal tea or taking a bubble bath (Yes, it is for men too!) also are good stress relievers. Take some time to relax and unwind with a good book, or write in a journal.

When going to bed turn your phone, computer and lights off. A television can put you to sleep but it is not a restful sleep, and will disrupt your brain’s ability to produce melatonin and serotonin, which help in the formation of memory.

Being mentally healthy requires at least 6-8 hours of a restful night’s sleep. Without it your memory will be weak, your learning will be slow, and you will not be able to function enough to get that promotion or ace that test you have been studying for.

 From the desk of Ron White



Psyorg – Common drugs linked to cognitive impairment and possibly to increased risk of death: