How much sleep do you need? Experts answer


We never really paid much attention to sleep and lack of it but over the past few years, we have come to realize the alarming consequences of disrupted or poor sleep. From brain function, obesity to lifestyle disorders, unregulated sleep cycles are creating havoc in many lives. COVID has further added to the burden of insomniac individuals.

How much sleep do you need?


Sleeping is a very important activity in our lives. We are supposed to sleep around 8 hours per day. Which is 1/3 of a day (24 hours). This means 1/3 of our lives, we are supposed to rest or sleep. Dr. Arjun Khanna, Head, Dept. of Pulmonary Medicine, Amrita Hospital, Faridabad shares, “Unfortunately, we don’t pay much attention to how much sleep is important for us. If someone is not feeling well, they are supposed to have a lot of manifestations of not sleeping well. In the short term, they are going to be irritable, have a headache when they wake up, not feel fresh, and even doze off when doing their daily activities. Over a period, not sleeping well can lead to more disturbances, depression, and anxiety and as we are getting more data, it shows not sleeping well can trigger hypertension, cardiac diseases, and brain-related diseases. Hence, we must sleep well.”

Read more: Why is obstructive sleep apnea concerning? Does it increase your risk of chronic illnesses?

Early signs of poor sleep


When you do not get sound sleep, you do not feel fresh when you get up in the morning, you feel sleepy early in the morning and during the day, you fall off in the middle of meetings, when you are in a car, even at 10 or 11 am. You get a headache, there are signs of memory loss or cognition loss and you are not as alert at work and your work can suffer if you do not sleep well. You also start to gain weight because metabolism which happens at night when sleeping gets affected. These are the signs that would help one know that they are not sleeping well, explains Dr. Nevin Kishore, Head of Bronchology & Senior Consultant – Respiratory Medicine, Pulmonology, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Gurugram.

Is sleeping in intervals healthy?


Those who do not get straight 6-7 hours sleep every night, resort to a few short daytime naps to make up for it. But does this qualify as healthy sleep? According to Dr Khanna it does not. “Healthy adults are supposed to sleep at least 6-7 hours, preferably 8 hours per night. If you are not able to sleep these hours at night, there is something wrong, which needs to be diagnosed and treated. If you sleep in the afternoon, you will not be able to sleep at night properly, and it will become a vicious cycle. So, sleeping during the day just because you did not sleep well at night is a habit that needs to be broken. If you are not sleeping well at night, it means you have something known as insomnia. Insomnia is taken very lightly in our country, and people generally refer to chemists and take sleeping pills which is not correct.”

Snoring is not a sign of good sleep. Period


Loud snoring is another sign of poor sleep that people tend to overlook. Dr Khanna adds, “Some signs that people miss are snoring or a loud snore is considered healthy. People think loud snoring means they are having a sound sleep. But it is the other way around. When you snore there are a lot of problems happening in your body, the upper airway closes at night which causes the sound of a snore. Hence if you snore, it means you are not sleeping properly. Hence there is a need to break this myth.”

Sleep apnea is a very common problem, it is said that around 8 – 10% of the total population suffers from sleep apnea. Dr. Arun Chowdary Kotaru, Consultant Respiratory/ Pulmonology & Sleep Medicine, Artemis Hospital Gurugram throws light on sleep apnea and its dangers. “Sleep apnea is hugely under diagnosed and we just see the tip of the iceberg. Good sleep is essential for quality of life. Sleep is a stage of repair which is essential to decrease oxidative stress which happens at cellular level. Sleep is affected by type of lifestyle, obesity, tea, coffee , smoking, blue light and alcohol. Sleep can be assessed by using sleep study (polysomnography). Sleep apnea is a modern lifestyle disease which leads to hypertension, stroke , road traffic accidents and uncontrolled diabetes.” Once sleep apnea is corrected patients will require less anti-hypertensive medication and people lose their weight due to increased activity and awareness during the day.

Sleep Apnea is a common and dangerous disorder, it can be life-threatening. Low levels of oxygen during nighttime can lead to heart attacks and brain strokes. It often goes undiagnosed by the GPs & general physicians. Patients should become aware of loud snoring, poor quality of sleep & day time sleepiness. These are the most important symptoms and they should see a pulmonologist before getting sleep studies done and confirming if they do or do not have sleep apnea, suggests Dr Kishore.

Follow good sleep hygiene


Sleep hygiene is an important part of good sleep. Following fixed timings and avoiding mobile phones before sleeping is an important step. Here are some tips to improve sleep by Dr Kishore and Dr Khanna.

  • Keep the bedroom quiet and sort of less noisy, less active in terms of whatever activities you have, like watching your television screen or listening to music or your office work. Try and do that in a room which is not the room you sleep in
  • Do not watch strong or violent television after the sunset
  • Try to keep the sanctity of the room you sleep in.
  • Listen to some light music
  • Do not have caffeine or tea for 3-4 hours before you sleep
  • Do not have a heavy meal or a lot of alcohol before you sleep
  • Take a little walk after dinner
  • Just listen to some light music or keep the lights dim from late evening in the room where you’re going to sleep and that will give you good quality of sleep
  • Do not catch up for sleep in the daytime.



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