Sleep: How Much Is Too Much?

By Nicole Cobar

Sleep: the sneak peek to death. Sleep is blissful and sometimes the only bit of peace we get. Humans do not agree on much, but everyone agrees that sleep is magical. Sleep is essential for humans to function properly. Too often, people seem to not get enough of it. Today, I would like to discuss the bigger question at hand: how much sleep are we supposed to be getting?

To start, there is no exact quantity as to how much we are supposed to be resting every night. The science of sleep is actually a relatively new field of study. There is still so much that we do not know about sleep. In fact, there is little consensus within the scientific community about sleep- particularly how much humans need of it to perform at our best. Many studies have different findings. Unfortunately, there is no magic number. For decades, Americans of all ages were told to aim for 8 hours of sleep every night. Now, with new research and more advanced MRI technology, scientists are retreating from that finding, suggesting that people of different ages need different amounts of sleep. Since sleep is essential for repair, development, and growth, a child or adolescent going through puberty needs more sleep than a fully developed adult.

Now, scientists are even saying that when it comes to sleep, quality is just as important as duration. Apparently, our brains go through several different sleep stages, during each of which our bodies are at different levels of sleep. The R.E.M. (Rapid Eye Movement) stage is the sleep stage where we are most awake. As we are not submerged in the deep sleep stage yet, the R.E.M. sleep stage is where humans are most conscious and receptive to our surrounding. Humans sleep in a cycle, where we move through the different stages of sleep. If a human sleeps but receives more R.E.M. sleep than deep sleep, this can cause the person to feel less rested and more tired throughout the day.

Still, there are many more factors that have been studied in how they affect sleep. Temperature, sound, mattress firmness, and stress/anxiety have all been examined in regard to how they affect our rest, with no definitive conclusion. It may be many years until we fully understand sleep. Until scientists have a concrete answer, people will have to listen to their bodies. Sleep until you are functioning properly and you feel your best. Just keep in mind that sometimes, too much of a good thing is a bad thing.