As you will most likely be aware, establishing a sleeping routine whereby we regularly get the right about of sleep is vital when it comes to our all-round well-being. Many of us are all too familiar with how run-down and groggy we feel when we’ve been burning the candle at both ends too much. On the other hand, those of us who always get the perfect amount know that it leads to improved mental health, increased productivity, and gives our bodies the necessary rest to operate optimally.You may, therefore, be wondering what the perfect amount of sleep is for you.
However, this is not such a simple thing to determine. There are various factors that contribute to the amount of sleep that you need each night. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation recently published new guidelines on the amount of sleep that each age group needs. In this article, we’ve analysed the results of this in detail, to allow you to identify how much sleep you personally need. First of all, it’s important to understand why getting enough sleep is so important. In fact, why do we need to sleep at all?
Why Is Getting Enough Sleep Important?
There are three key reasons that getting enough sleep is extremely important, and a lack of sleep can lead to issues in one or more of these areas. As you will see from the reasons discussed below, there are huge benefits that can be attained from adequate and restful sleep.
1. Physical Health
When you are asleep, you body carries out repair to all your major organ and systems. Therefore, if you’re getting enough sleep, you can expect to enjoy a good level of physical health. If you don’t get enough sleep, however, there are health risks associated such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
2. Brain Health And Mental Health
During the night, your brain is busy laying down new pathways and memories. Good sleep also helps your brain to function in the way it is supposed to. Scientific research has shown that we can learn and retain new memories far better when are regularly having enough sleep. Furthermore, inadequate sleep is linked to various neurological and mental health difficulties, including depression and anxiety.
3. Performance During The Day
It’s been shown that people who are sleep deficient can suffer from lack of concentration, low productivity, and impaired reaction times. As a result, the quality of your work and study can be either positively or negatively influenced by the amount of sleep you are getting. Also, if you drive a car or have a job that requires intense concentration and good decision making such as a surgeon, pilot or machinery operator, you’ll definitely want to make sleep your top priority to prevent mishaps.
What Do The National Sleep Foundation Guidelines Say?
As we mentioned above, the National Sleep Foundation published a new study to come up with detailed recommendations about the amount of sleep needed by different age groups. You may have heard that eight hours is the magic number when it comes to your nightly slumber, but this study shows that this is only the case for certain ages. For each age range, they published a recommended range of sleep times and a not recommended range. However, they also introduced a range entitled ‘may be appropriate’, to acknowledge the widely varying needs of different individuals across the population. We’ll discuss the implications of this later in the article. However, for now, we’ll look at each age range more closely.
Newborns (0-3 Months)
Recommended: 14-17 hours
Maybe appropriate: 11-13 hours or 18-19 hours
Not recommended: less than 11 or more than 19 hours
It’s important to remember that newborn babies are not adapted to sleep for one long period throughout the night. As any new parent will tell you, babies sleep sporadically for varying periods of time, and have periods of wakefulness during the night. This is due to a newborn’s increased feeding, nappy changes, and other needs.
Infants (4-11 months)
Recommended: 12-15 hours
Maybe appropriate: 10-11 or 16-18 hours
Not recommended: Less than 10 or more than 18 hours
At this age, babies are now able to sleep throughout the night without waking for feeds, although this is by no means guaranteed! In addition, infants may still need a couple of short naps during the day to supplement their nighttime sleep.
Toddlers (1-2 years)
Recommended: 11-14 hours
May be appropriate: 9-10 or 15-16 hours
Not recommended: Less than 9 or more than 16 hours
As they are not developing at such a rapid rate as babies and infants, a toddler therefore needs less sleep. Many parents find that their toddler still wants to nap during the day. If this is the case, naps should be limited to the earlier portion of the day in order to ensure that they can then get to sleep at bedtime.
Preschoolers (3-5 years)
Recommended: 10-13 hours
May be appropriate: 8-9 or 14 hours
Not recommended: Less than 8 or more than 14 hours
By this age, it is likely that children will no longer want to nap during the day. They should be getting their sleep in on time period through the night. However, it is a phenomenon that children of this age tend to suffer from nightmares at a higher range than other age groups. Therefore, they may need an amount of sleep towards the higher end of the spectrum, to compensate from any interruption to sleep that they experience.
School-Age Children (6-13 Years)
Recommended: 9-11 hours
Maybe appropriate: 7-8 or 12 hours
Not recommended: Less than 7 or more than 12 hours
While they still need more sleep than an average adult, children of this age usually find 9-11 hours to be perfectly adequate. Bear in mind that those who are studying more intensively or engaging in a lot of physical activity may need slightly more.
Teenagers (14-17 years)
Recommended: 8-10 hours
Maybe appropriate: 7 or 11 hours
Not recommended: Less than 7 or more than 11 hours
For parents of teenagers, it may seem like they’re forever sleeping. This is because their pattern shifts during this age to going to sleep and waking up later. Due to demands such as social commitments, many teenagers do not get enough sleep during the week and then binge-sleep at the weekend. This disrupts their natural body clocks and should be discouraged.
Younger Adults (18-25 Years)
Recommended: 7-9 hours
Maybe appropriate: 6 or 10-11 hours
Not recommended: Less than 6 or more than 11 hours
People in this age range often neglect getting enough sleep. This may be down to the demands that come with this period in life, such as college and starting a career. Also, many young adults will tell you that an active social life can often get in the way of a proper sleep pattern!
Adults (26-64 years)
Recommended: 7-8 hours
Maybe appropriate: 5-9 hours
Not recommended: Less than 5 or more than 9 hours
As we age, many people find that they need slightly less sleep as our brains and bodies are fully developed. However, it’s still vital to ensure that you get enough sleep to remain healthy.
Older Adults (65+ Years)
Recommended: 7-8 hours
Maybe appropriate: 5-6 or 9 hours
Not recommended: Less than 5 or more than 9 hours
Although many people believe that older adults require less sleep, this is not the case. They need as much sleep as adults under 65. However, as we age, many people find it harder to stay asleep at night, and report feeling more tired during the day.
Apart From Age, What Else Affects My Sleep Needs?
You may have noticed that there is a ‘may be appropriate’ sleep range the extends beyond the recommended sleep time. Well, that’s because age is not the only factor determining how long we need to sleep. There are some people for whom slightly more or slightly less sleep than what is recommended for the majority. Here’s our rundown of the questions you need to consider.
1. What Amount Of Sleep Feels Good For Me?
When deciding how much sleep you need, you should always listen to your body. If you feel very tired, or very energetic on less sleep, you may simply be predisposed to needing slightly more or less sleep than an average person of your age.
2. Am I Suffering From Any Health Conditions?
People suffering from acute or chronic illnesses may need more sleep than other people, either because their sleep is disturbed or because their body needs more time to repair during the night. Even short-term illness like the flu may require more sleep than usual to aid recovery.
3. Is My Sleep High Quality?
If you are suffering from low quality sleep or restless nights, you may need more sleep overall to compensate. If you’re concerned about the quality of your sleep, we have published loads of great articles to help you get a more peaceful nightly rest.
4. Am I Performing Well In Day-to-day Tasks?
If you find yourself suffering from lapses in memory, low productivity or even low mood, you may need more sleep. Most concerning is if you find yourself experiencing lack of concentration in high-stakes situations, such as behind the wheel. If this is the case for you, it is a real red flag that you need to sleep more.
These new guidelines give us all a fantastic indicator of how much sleep we need to achieve good health and overall performance. However, it’s important to take other factors into consideration when establishing a sleep schedule.
Hopefully, now you have a better idea of how much sleep you really need according to your age and other factors, and are well on the way to finding the perfect amount of sleep for you.