What is the Right Amount of Sleep?

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All evidence shows that sleep is necessary for health and happiness. It makes you more focused, alert, and creative, and it helps fight obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and more. But how much sleep do you need to get the benefits? And how can you get it?

Sleep By Age Group

The right amount of sleep depends on a number of factors, and can be different for each person. First, there are general guidelines for suggested sleep times by age group, based on recent studies. Here are the current ranges by age:

• Newborns (0-3 months) should be getting 14-17 hours each day
• Infants (4-11 months) should get 12-15 hours each day
• Toddlers (1-2 years) should have 11-14 hours
• Preschoolers (ages 3-5) need 10-13 hours of sleep
• Kids (age 6-13) need 9-11 hours
• Teenagers (14 through 17) should have 8-10 hours of sleep
• Young adults and adults from 18 through 64 need 7-9 hours of sleep a night
• Older adults (65+) need a little less at 7-8 hours of sleep

To get to the right amount for your needs, pay attention to how much sleep you’re getting now and see if it’s enough. You can tell by watching for signs that you’re not getting the right amount of rest, such as craving junk food, having memory troubles, or being more moody on days where you get less sleep.

Sleep and Children

Kids need more sleep for their health and growth. Emphasizing good sleep habits now will make it easier for them to keep up positive routines later in life.

Naps for kids are ok – studies show that children who nap don’t have trouble sleeping. In fact, they’re in better moods and then have better sleep when they go down for the night. Because of the increased amount of sleep needed, naps may be necessary to provide enough sleep to meet their daily goals.

Experts recommend the same things for getting kids better rest as they do for adults: stick to a routine, put away the screens an hour before bed, and keep their room a relaxing place that’s comfortable and not over-stimulating. It’s a good practice to try to get your child get to sleep on their own, so that when your schedule is disrupted it doesn’t also lead to less sleep for them. When appropriate, discourage them from getting up at night so they don’t need help getting back to bed.

Sleep and Seniors

You might find a lot of people who think that seniors don’t need as much sleep, but that’s not really true. Their sleep range is only slightly different than people under the age of 65.

Researchers found that people who didn’t have serious medical barriers to getting good rest slept longer and better than people in their age range with those issues. So it’s not the age that’s causing the lack of sleep, it’s other issues. Addressing those other health issues can take away some of the barriers to getting better rest.

At any age, healthy habits like diet, exercise, and routine are important for helping with sleep, but unlike kids, seniors should try not to nap.

Making Up Sleep

It’s easy to think you’ll stay up late and then sleep in on the weekends to make up the lost sleep. However, research has shown that you can’t make up for long stretches of bad sleep with 1-2 nights of good sleep. Worse, constantly changing your sleep schedule can make it harder to get quality rest, and has a negative effect on your physical and mental health.

In some situations, taking naps can help fill your sleep bank (especially for kids). Unfortunately, our biological clocks are not built so that short bursts of sleep are enough in the long term. You’re not getting the full benefit of your sleep cycle. We are also wired to sleep when it’s dark out, so trying to get good rest during the day is fighting our nature. If you DO nap, though, try for 20 minutes. Going 30-60 minutes puts you in that groggy state because you’re in the stage of sleep where your brain waves have slowed down.

Too Much Sleep

All this talk of sleep makes it seem like you should just get as much as possible. But it’s also not good to get too much sleep. Sleeping for more than 10 hours a day can actually cause similar problems to not being well-rested. Sleeping for that long is also usually a sign that something else is wrong because your body naturally wakes up when it’s rested. Those extra hours mean the sleep you are getting isn’t good, potentially because of health issues, or can be a symptom of something like depression. It’s important to mention this to a doctor to find the underlying cause and make sure it’s addressed.

Getting Quality Sleep

To get the benefits of your time in bed, not just any rest will give the right results. It needs to be quality sleep. Guidelines by the National Sleep Foundation say that the signs of quality sleep are: if you fell asleep in 30 minutes or less (60 minutes for seniors), only wake up once (or twice for senior citizens), stay awake for less than 20 minutes (30 minutes if you’re over 65), and are actually asleep for 85% of the time you’re in bed.

To help get quality sleep, start healthy sleep habits and routines, including leaving yourself enough time for those 7-9 hours. Address any physical issues that may be waking you up at night. That includes your bed! If your bed isn’t comfortable and doesn't give you the right support, it may be time to switch things up.

 

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