Finding How Much Sleep is Enough


March 6 through 13 was National Sleep Awareness Week. Insufficient sleep puts us at risk for Alzheimer’s, diabetes, accelerated aging and other degenerative conditions. Learning to get better quality sleep is a powerful health strategy.

Our health history, current well-being, stress load and sleep efficiency all contribute to our sleep requirement. The best gauge of our ideal sleep dose is to look at how many hours we sleep on vacation when we wake naturally without the effects of excessive indulgences or crazy hours. Seven to eight hours of sleep is the normal range for healthy sleep.

Less than six hours of sleep per night is assuredly brain damaging. During sleep is when “brain bathing” takes place; when the brain rids itself of toxins produced and ingested, and it repairs and renews its structures. Without a good bath of restorative sleep, we can accumulate degradation of brain tissue, structures and function. More than nine hours of sleep per night, on a regular basis, is not good either; it may suggest an underlying metabolic problem.

Many people have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or sleeping restfully. A major factor is cortisol, the stress hormone; when called into action late in the day, it interferes with the production of melatonin, the hormone naturally produced in deep restorative sleep and required for brain and body repair. To minimize cortisol production before bedtime, avoid eating, working in front of a computer screen, watching violence or bad news on television or engaging in arguments or stressful conversations.

The best strategy for getting a night of healthy sleep is to develop a sleep routine as much as possible. Have a consistent bedtime and targeted waking time and replace bedtime snacking with sleep-support teas such as chamomile, valerian root, kava-kava and passion flower. Light doses of relaxing aromatherapy like lavender or geranium can also be helpful.

Sherron Marquina, DC, is the owner of Health InSyncs. She will conduct an in-depth workshop about the sleep cycle and how to enhance sleep quality using learn easy-to-implement steps on Mar. 22. For more information, call 804-377-2222 or visit



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