mature woman waking up refreshed and happyMany people still believe that everyone needs eight hours of sleep. Despite the recommendations from the National Sleep Foundation, which highlight the importance of different amounts of sleep at different times in our lives, people want simple guidelines for how much sleep they need.

When it comes to simple guidelines, the simplest might be the best: let your body tell you. That’s according to an increasingly large body of evidence that suggests human beings have incredibly varied needs when it comes to sleep. The best recipe for getting the right amount of sleep might be putting emphasis on your personal preferences rather than on institutional guidelines. That’s why the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center in Omaha recommends that you let your body, not your clock, tell you when you are getting enough sleep and when you’re not.

Sleep Needs Vary with Age

First, it’s important to understand that your sleep needs will likely change over time. As we get older, we tend to need less sleep. This means that if you find yourself waking up earlier as you get older, it’s not necessarily any cause for alarm. Only talk to an Omaha sleep dentist or doctor if you feel you’re not getting enough sleep on a regular basis.

Midnight Waking Can Be Normal

It’s a modern convention that people should go to sleep and get one uninterrupted block of rest. Research suggests that this single block of sleep, called “monophasic sleep,” may not be normal or even desirable. For millennia, humans tended to practice what is called “biphasic sleep,” in which they had a first sleep and a second sleep, separated by several hours of wakefulness. Some people might still find this comfortable, and some people sleep better with several shorter periods of sleep, “polyphasic sleep.”

However, you might want to talk to your doctor in Omaha if you’re waking up frequently to urinate because you have night terrors, or wake up gasping and choking, then can’t fall back asleep. These could potentially be linked to sleep apnea.

Be Aware of Your Chronotype

In addition to varying needs as we age, people tend to get better sleep at different times. This is described as having a different chronotype. Some people are “larks” who like to get up early in the morning. Other people are “owls” who like to stay up late at night. The rest of us are “doves” who fall somewhere in between. Doves are the most common (65% of the population), followed by owls (25%) and larks (10%).

Just as our overall need for sleep changes with age, so too can our chronotype. Young people are more likely to be owls but shift toward larks as they get older.

Some people can make the switch from one to another, likely because they change their routine. Not everyone can successfully change their chronotype, however. Many people who are forced to sleep at different times–such as because of shift work–might not be able to adapt. As a result, you should be wary when trying to change your schedule. It might not work.

Sleep Apps May Not Help

In this age of Big Data leading to personalized experiences when shopping or browsing online, it would be nice to think that apps would offer a similarly personalized approach to something as necessary and intimate as sleep. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Sleep tracking apps utilize legitimate data about your body, such as movement, heart and breathing rates, skin conductance, and temperature, to make conclusions about how well you’re sleeping.

However, the sleep scores these apps give you are based on algorithms that may not accurately reflect your sleep needs. The sleep scores these apps offer are interesting to look at, but you shouldn’t take them as your primary guide to assessing and improving your sleep quality.

If you do use them, consider them as supportive data to the information your body gives you. If you find that certain parameters correlate with better subjective sleep measures, it’s worthwhile to utilize them in a casual way to help improve your sleep. However, you should talk to an Omaha sleep dentist or sleep doctor before trying to make major changes in your sleep routine.

How to Tell When You’re Getting Enough Sleep

So, if we can’t trust a simple number to tell us how much sleep we need, how can we tell? The answer is that we simply need to put more trust in our bodies. Modern life tends to run by strict schedules, but often these strict schedules are harmful to our health and happiness. Nowhere might that be more true than when it comes to sleep.

A recent study looked at sleep and cardiovascular risk. It divided people into four categories of sleep: good sleepers, nappers, dissatisfied/inefficient sleepers, and irregular sleepers. Compared to so-called good sleepers, nappers might have a higher risk of cardiovascular conditions, and dissatisfied/inefficient sleepers showed a significant increase in cardiovascular risks. However, irregular sleepers had no elevated risk. Being an irregular sleeper doesn’t signal risk, but being a dissatisfied sleeper does.

Instead of worrying about how many hours you sleep, you should keep an eye out for symptoms that you’re not getting enough sleep, including:

  • Always needing an alarm or other help to get up
  • Falling asleep at work or when driving
  • Relying heavily on caffeinated beverages to stay awake
  • Difficulty thinking or remembering
  • Depression or irritability

You should also watch for symptoms related to sleep apnea, including:

  • Loud snoring
  • Gasping or choking when you wake up
  • Waking up frequently to urinate at night
  • High blood pressure (especially if it doesn’t respond to medication)
  • Morning headaches
  • Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
  • Diabetes

If you have these as well as feeling sleepy during the day, you might have sleep apnea. Talk to an Omaha sleep dentist or sleep doctor to get tested.

Sleep Apnea Treatment in Omaha

If you are unable to find a good sleeping pattern that helps you feel comfortable and healthy, you might have sleep apnea. Since this condition comes with potentially deadly complications, it’s important to get tested to determine whether you need treatment.

Please call (402) 493-4175 or use our online form to request an appointment at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center, located in North Omaha in Northport.