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Are you getting enough sleep?

The amount of sleep a person needs changes during their life, from just after being born to older age:

  • Infants require about 16 hours a day
  • Teenagers need about 9 hours on average
  • Most adults need 7 to 9 hours a night for the best amount of sleep, although some people may need as few as 5 hours or as many as 10 hours of sleep each day
  • Women in the first 3 months of pregnancy often need several more hours of sleep than usual

However, experts say that if you feel drowsy during the day, even during boring activities, you haven't had enough sleep.

Sleep deprivation debits

The amount of sleep a person needs also increases if he or she has been deprived of sleep in previous days. Getting too little sleep creates a "sleep debt," which is much like being overdrawn at a bank. Eventually, your body will demand that the debt be repaid. We don't seem to adapt to getting less sleep than we need - while we may get used to a sleep-depriving schedule, our judgement, reaction time, and other functions are still impaired.

Consequences of too little sleep

Too little sleep may cause:

  • Memory problems
  • Depression
  • A weakening of your immune system, increasing your chances of becoming sick
  • Increase in perception of pain

The dangers of sleep deprivation

Many studies make it clear that sleep deprivation is dangerous. Sleep-deprived people who are tested by using a driving simulator or by performing a hand- eye coordination task perform as badly as or worse than those who are intoxicated with alcohol.

Sleep deprivation also magnifies alcohol's effects on the body, so a fatigued person who drinks will become much more impaired than someone who is well rested.

Driver fatigue could be a factor in 10% of all road accidents, according to government research. Since drowsiness is the brain's last step before falling asleep, driving while drowsy can - and often does - lead to disaster. Caffeine and other stimulants cannot overcome the effects of severe sleep deprivation.

If you:

  • Have trouble keeping your eyes focused
  • Can't stop yawning
  • Can't remember driving the last few miles

You are probably too drowsy to drive safely.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on February 23, 2016

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