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How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?

Many female celebrities reveal that beauty sleep is their secret to their good health and looks that last. But is eight hours of sleep a day really necessary?

We all know that sleep is important to give the body time to heal and recover from the stresses of daily life, but just how many hours a night should we be aiming for? The number eight has always been the magic number, that is, until recently. Scientists nowadays suggest that somewhere closer to seven hours is sufficient, but agree that there is no ‘one size fits all’. Instead, a person’s amount of sleep should be determined based on their unique lifestyle and health status, and sleep quality is more important than quantity. You may sleep for eight or nine hours and wake up exhausted because the quality of your sleep was compromised, or wake up refreshed after a six-hour stint in a comfortable bed.

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What do we mean by quality sleep?

The two most important stages of sleep are Phase 3: Deep Sleep and Phase 4: REM Sleep.

  • During deep sleep, the muscles relax and your heart rate and breathing slow down and there is little brain activity. Deep sleep is important for our physical health, as this is when our body regenerates: our muscle tissue rebuilds, our wounds heal, our kidneys clean our blood, energy is built up for the day ahead and our cells are replaced. A healthy dose of deep sleep is about 20% of overall sleep (96 minutes of the eight hours).
  • REM sleep occurs in intervals and is characterised by rapid eye movements (REM) and faster pulse and breathing. This is the dream stage when our eyes and brains are active, but our limbs are not. REM sleep plays a key role in storing our memories and balancing our moods. Healthy amounts of REM sleep accounts for about 25% of our total sleep for that evening (120 minutes of the eight hours).

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How to improve your quality of sleep

  • Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol.
  • Limit caffeine and nicotine, as these are stimulants.
  • Meditation prior to bedtime to focus on deep breathing and relaxation.
  • Include physical activity in your daily routine.
  • Manage stress.
  • Avoid bright screens within an hour or two of your bedtime.
  • Keep your room dark, cool and quiet while you sleep.

Whatever your individual sleep number may be, the trick to achieving a good night’s beauty sleep is to ensure those hours of zzz’s are of the best quality.

Image: iStock

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