Be Well Blog

How Much Sleep is Enough?

Do you jump out of bed in the morning or hit snooze and drag yourself to the coffeepot? We’ve all heard that we need at least 8 hours of sleep per night, but is that true? Is that the best fit for everyone? Before you catch some Zzzz’s tonight, see how much sleep you should really be getting.

The National Sleep Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes healthy sleep and safety, says that the amount of sleep each person needs can vary dramatically and that some people need more sleep than others. Here are the recommend hours from infants to adults:

  • Infants (ages 0-3 months): 14-17 hours
  • Infants (ages 4-11 months): 12-15 hours
  • Toddlers (ages 1-2 years): 11-14 hours
  • Pre-school children: (ages 3-5) 10-13 hours
  • School-age children: (ages 6-13) 9-11 hours
  • Teenagers: (ages 14-17) 8-10 hours
  • Adults: 7-9 hours
  • Older adults: (ages 65 and older) 7-8 hours

Changing Patterns

The average amount of sleep you need fluctuates over your lifetime, especially during childhood and adolescence. And although averages are helpful, there will always be individuals who fall both above and below the recommended hours. Several other factors can also affect the amount of rest you require, including:

Pregnancy. Changes in the body during early pregnancy can increase your need for sleep.

Aging. Older adults need about the same amount of sleep as younger adults. However, sleeping patterns might change. Older adults may sleep more lightly and for shorter time spans.

Previous sleep deprivation. If you're sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you need increases until you begin to feel better.

Sleep quality. Frequent interruptions mean less quality sleep—and the quality of your sleep is just as important as the quantity.

Going into Debt

What happens if your sleep needs are not met? Just like a loan at a bank, your body will demand that your debt be repaid. This pay-off usually involves extra sleep by napping, going to bed early or sleeping later. While you may get used to a sleep-depriving schedule, judgement, reaction time and other functions are still impaired. If you sleep less than your body needs and don’t find a way to catch up, you may experience daytime sleepiness, fatigue, difficultly concentrating, poor thinking, increased risk of accidents and other health complications, like weight gain.

Make Your Hours

If you are looking to figure out your optimal number of sleep hours, there are a few things you can try. First, find a week or two where you can focus on your sleep without disruptions to your schedule. Then, select a bedtime and stick with it each night. Allow yourself to sleep as long as is comfortable, waking without an alarm clock. After a few days, you will have paid back any sleep debt you owe yourself, and you should be able to see a clear pattern of the average hours of sleep needed for your body.

Avoid Deprivation

It’s important that your body gets the sleep it needs. Chronic, or long-term, sleep deprivation can impair your health, safety, productivity, mood, memory and so much more. With stress from work, kids and life in general, it can be easy to normalize your lack of sleep, but if you are really struggling, click here to view our tips for a better night’s sleep.

If you would like more advice, make an appointment with a sleep specialist. Your physician can order a study at the Newton-Wellesley Sleep Center; click here to get started.