Sleep: How Much Should We Be Getting?


Is it just me or have mornings on Oahu been colder than usual over the last several months? It sure feels that way and as a result it’s been harder and harder for me to pull myself out of bed each day. Hitting the snooze button on my iPhone alarm has increased to at least three or four times before abandoning my warm bed and getting on with the day. I’m certain many of you will agree.

But perhaps colder mornings aren’t the only factor to blame for my lagging in the morning. I’ve never been one to sleep much on weekdays, using the time late at night after Kelly and I tuck the kids in for bed around 9 p.m. to catch up on our favorite television shows, talk story, clean up the house, or in my case, get a little more work done before hitting the sack. Staying up until midnight is pretty common on weekdays and even later on weekends depending on what’s happening the following day.

I honestly believe that I operate better on less sleep. After five to six hours of rest, once I’m up the lag doesn’t last very long. Once I wash my face and brush my teeth, the blood starts to warm up, adrenaline starts to flow, and it’s game on!

Not so much the case when I sleep for eight hours or more. I wake up feeling more lethargic, tired, and many times sleepy throughout the day. Is something wrong with me? Is there such a thing as too much sleep?

Until recently, I assumed adults needed eight hours of sleep, while children required at least ten. I assume this guideline was a result from visits to the doctor and reading various articles on good health. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), this is what I uncovered:

“The first thing experts will tell you about sleep is that there is no “magic number.” Not only do different age groups need different amounts of sleep, but sleep needs are also individual. Just like any other characteristics you are born with, the amount of sleep you need to function best may be different for you than for someone who is of the same age and gender. While you may be at your absolute best sleeping seven hours a night, someone else may clearly need nine hours to have a happy, productive life. In fact, a 2005 study confirmed the fact that sleep needs vary across populations, and the study calls for further research to identify traits within genes that may provide a “map” to explain how sleep needs differ among individuals.”

As I was read this information I began to feel a bit better about my sleep habits. We’ve also found this to be the case with Ensen and Avery. Ensen, who turns 6-years-old this year, rarely takes naps anymore, while Avery, who turns 3-years-old next month still enjoys her beauty rest, although getting her to nap on the weekends can be challenging.

Then I came to this part in the article:

“Though scientists are still learning about the concept of basal sleep need, one thing sleep research certainly has shown is that sleeping too little can not only inhibit your productivity and ability to remember and consolidate information, but lack of sleep can also lead to serious health consequences and jeopardize your safety and the safety of individuals around you.”

For example, short sleep duration is linked with:

  • Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents
  • Increase in body mass index, a greater likelihood of obesity due to an increased appetite caused by sleep deprivation
  • Increased risk of diabetes and heart problems
  • Increased risk for psychiatric conditions including depression and substance abuse
  • Decreased ability to pay attention, react to signals or remember new information

Yowser! Pretty scary stuff, but not surprising since most parents live life on the go. It’s easy to neglect our health without even realizing it.

We joke now and again, “There isn’t enough time in a day to get everything done.” But the reality is, when we push ourselves over the limit, we tend to get sick, bedridden and unable to do a lot of things.

Busy parents need to consider how much sleep is the right amount to remain productive during the day and enough to give your body the needed rest to ward off the health risks that accompany sleep deprivation.

While you figure it out, I think I’ll go take a quick nap.

Nathan Kam is a Honolulu public-relations executive, husband and a proud daddy of two incredible kids, Ensen (5) and Avery (2). He enjoys cooking, gardening, traveling, blogging and golfing. You can reach him via emailTwitterFacebookLinkedIn or via his personal Kam Family Blog.