Sleep is considered to be a dynamic activity. It is state of unconsciousness when human perception and sensory mechanisms are suspended while the voluntary muscles activity is stopped. During the sleep, the anabolic activity is raised, promoting rejuvenation of body systems, including immune, skeletal, muscular and nervous systems.
The amount of sleep optimally required by humans varies with age and circadian rhythms timing. When sufficient amount of sleep is acquired, there should be no daytime sleepiness or dysfunctions.
Average sleep time cycle
In healthy middle aged adults, the optimal self-reported sleep time associated with long longevity is around 7 hours of continues and sound sleep per day. However, due to the variations in sleep quality, the following are the commonly accepted averages
- Newborns up to 2 months of age – 12-18 hours
- Infants 2 to 11 months – 14-15 hours
- Toddlers 1 to 3 years – 12-14 hours
- Children 3-5 years – 11 to 13 hours
- Children 5-10 years – 10-11 hours
- Adolescents 10-18 years – 8 1/2 to 9 1/4 hours
- Adults 18+ – 6-9 hours
The sleep phase is considered efficient when the following circadian rhythm markers are met
- The body reaches its lowest basal temperature six hours into the sleep
- The melatonin levels reach their maximum concentration levels after 4 hours of sleep
Quality of sleep depends on behavioral patterns
Lifestyle contributes to healthy circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm can be appropriately applied if
- The sleep initiated at the same time of the day for at least 7-14 days
- The sleep is not interrupted by external factors or medical conditions
- The wake up time remains consistent according to sleep time requirements
- The nutrition intake and daily activities are well established and contribute to overall health
Additional considerations that contribute to maintenance of natural circadian rhythms
- The mid-day drowsiness should not be a regular occurrence, including the time after meals. Light physical activities to alleviate the mid-day drowsiness will contribute to better and uninterrupted sleep at night
- The naps should not last longer than 20 minutes and only be adopted to compensate for under-sleeping or following behavioral or cultural trends
Nap or not to nap?
Although habits of naps have been associated with reduction in coronary mortality, epidemiological studies produced somewhat conflicting results. Naps appear to contribute to overall body health only if such naps are necessary and less than 20 minutes in duration.
A recent study of more than 27000 people in China, where taking post-lunch naps is very popular, indicated that napping for more than 30 minutes raised the chances of developing type two diabetes. This appears to be the result of excessive insulin if naps are taken during the day that eventually wears out pancreatic response. This has been also found to affect cholesterol levels in an adverse manner.
Napping during the day also leads to decreased quality of sleep at night.
Nap necessity can be linked to
- Unbalanced physical activity with more energy spent in mornings
- Premature awakening
- Eating patterns that produce imbalanced nutritional intake (infrequent heavy meals) during the day
- Fluid drinking patterns that invoke midnight awakenings to urinate
- Any medical conditions that result in interrupted sleep patterns such as obstructive sleep apnea or those that cause pain at night
Dangers and side effect of oversleeping
Too much sleep can negatively impact the life span and quality of living. Studies show that sleeping over 8 hours a day in adults has been consistently linked to heightened mortality rates, although other associated factors are not ruled out.
A University of California, San Diego study of psychiatry that analyzed over one million adults, found that those who live the longest indicated sleeping for 6 to 7 hours each night. Another sleep study of duration and mortality risk in women showed similar results.
It has been suggested that the correlation between lower sleep hours and reduced morbidity only occurs with those who wake up naturally, rather than those using an alarm.
Excessive sleeping has been associated with the following
- Increased fatigue and necessity of napping
- Increased risk of diabetes
- Obesity caused by gradual weight gain
- Immune system dysfunctions
- Coronary heart disease
- Memory problems
- Hormonal imbalances resulting in an array of conditions developing over time. Oversleeping brings the vital levels of hormones such as estrogen way below the levels required for normal physical and cognitive functions.
- Lowered vitality and drive to do things
- Doubling of the risk of death primarily from causes other than cardiovascular disease
Reducing oversleeping can be accomplished by establishing a healthy sleep routine
Gradually reducing your sleeping time over a few weeks period will help you to normalize your sleep patterns more effectively. Be careful not to reduce your sleep time excessively. Your sleep requirements may vary due to many factors.
General recommendations to help optimizing your sleep and normalize the sleeping time required
- Establish a proper daily routine by going to bed and waking up at exactly same time each day
- Ensure your room is dark during the sleep hours. Early morning light reaching your eyes prematurely before wake up time, will awaken your body.
- Use comfortable ear plugs and eye mask if noise and light is unavoidable during the sleep
- Expose your eyes to sunlight upon awakening to establish proper circadian rhythm process and natural melatonin production at night
- Wake up gradually. Do not eat immediately away upon awakening. Allow at least 30 minutes before having a breakfast
- Breakfasts should be light with minimum or no sugar content, containing low amounts of fat and carbohydrates. If possible, avoid stimulants such as coffee.
- Balance daily activities to normalize load levels during the day, avoiding physical stress in mornings and late evenings
- Avoid infrequent and high calorie meals and balance the diet nutritionally, having 4-6 smaller meals a day
- Avoid daytime naps unless absolutely necessary. If napping time is required, reduce it to less than 20 minutes and take naps before 3pm.
- Regulate the water intake to avoid necessity of waking up to urinate. Drink more but not excessively in the first 8 hours of awakening.
- Allow 20 minutes per day for cardio exercise 2-4 days per week
- Eat your last meal and drink no later than 2-3 hours before going to bed. Do not consume any natural stimulants such as coffee, alcohol, chocolate, teas, etc.
- Read a book an hour before bed – this will help to fall asleep faster
- Avoid frequent usage any sleep medications and supplements such as melatonin. Intake of melatonin on a regular basis for example, can result in chronically low levels of this hormone produced naturally by your body, further aggravating insomnia
- Oversleeping can be a sign of a metabolic syndrome. Taking a hair mineral analysis is simple and may help to exclude a deficiency in certain nutrients. Deficiency in certain minerals is one of the most significant causes of many health issues overlooked by medical community