HOW Much Sleep Do We Really Need?

My old buddy Gregory Niro said to me the other day: “I am so tired that my bed has issued a search warrant for me.”

I laughed of course, and asked of him, what I am asking you as well: Does your sleep time meet your age needs?

Along with healthy food, water and oxygen, we the humans, just like our dumb friends-animals, need healthy sleep to survive. Indeed, for humans slumber is a vital thing for enjoying overall health and well-being. We spend up to 1/3 of our lives asleep, so the overall state of our sleep health remains an essential question throughout our life.

Having a good night’s sleep is important, but not so many of us actually make those standard 8 hours of sleep their ‘must have.’  In fact, multitudes of us, ”indebted with sleep,”  have forgotten what being thoroughly rested feels like!

Matters become even more complicated when we undermine our sleep urge with stimulants like coffee, energy drinks, alarm clocks, or external lights—including those from electronic devices. All these ‘sleep enemies’ do interfere with our circadian rhythm [or natural sleep/awake cycle].

What everyone should know is that sleep needs vary across age profiles, and are also dependent on individual’s lifestyle and health. To decide how much sleep you need, it’s important to find out not only where you fall in the sleep times chart, but also to realize which lifestyle factors are affecting the quality and quantity of your sleep (such as work schedules and stress level). So, to get the doze you need, you must have the big picture in mind.

Ask the experts!

The National Sleep Foundation made it their mission to champion not only sleep science, but sleep health for individual age groups as well. On the eve of their 25th anniversary, they are releasing the update of a world-class study that took more than 2 years of research to complete.

The results include their most-cited guidelines on how much sleep you really need at a particular age. You can read this research paper published in Sleep Health.

About 20 leading scientists and researchers joined together to form the National Sleep Foundation’s expert panel, tasked with updating the official recommendations.

The panel included 6 sleep specialists and representatives from leading organizations including: the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association of Anatomists, American College of Chest Physicians, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Geriatrics Society, American Neurological Association, American Physiological Society, American Psychiatric Association, American Thoracic Society, Gerontological Society of America, Human Anatomy and Physiology Society, and Society for Research in Human Development.

The panelists participated in a rigorous scientific process that included reviewing over 300 current scientific publications, and voting on how much sleep is appropriate throughout the lifespan. “Millions of individuals trust the National Sleep Foundation for its sleep duration recommendations.

As the voice for sleep health it is the NSF’s responsibility to make sure that our recommendations are supported by the most rigorous science,” says Charles Czeisler, MD, PhD, chairman of the board of the National Sleep Foundation and chief of sleep medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Individuals, particularly parents, rely on them for this valuable information. 

What is your age? How much sleep do You need?

Though research cannot exactly pinpoint the amount of sleep people need at different ages, the new chart, which features minimum and maximum ranges for health, identifies the “rule-of-thumb” amounts experts have agreed on.

However, it’s important to pay heed to your own individual needs by assessing how you feel on different amounts of sleep. So, these are the 5 questions you need to answer for yourself to find the number that works for you:

  • Are you productive, healthy and happy on 7 hours of sleep? Or does it take you 9 hours of quality ZZZs to get you chock- full of energy?
  • Do you have health issues such as being overweight? Are you at risk of any disease?
  • Are you experiencing sleep problems?
  • Do you depend on caffeine to get you by throughout the day?
  • Do you feel sleepy when driving?

Sleep Time Recommendations: What has changed?  

The NSF has committed to regularly reviewing and providing scientifically rigorous recommendations,” says Max Hirshkowitz, PhD, Chair of the National Sleep Foundation Scientific Advisory Council.  So, the public can feel confident that these recommendations represent the best guidance for sleep duration and optimal health.  

A new range, “may be appropriate,” has been added to acknowledge the individual variability in appropriate sleep durations. The recommendations now define times as either (a) recommended; (b) may be appropriate for some individuals; or (c) not recommended. 

The panel revised the recommended sleep ranges for all children and teenage groups. A summary of the new recommendations of NSF includes:

  • Newborns (0-3 months ): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
  • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
  • Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
  • School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category) 

(Announced in February, 2015)– The National Sleep Foundation (NSF), along with a multi-disciplinary expert panel, issued these new recommendations for appropriate sleep durations. The report recommends wider appropriate sleep ranges for most age groups. The results are published in Sleep Health: The Journal of the National Sleep Foundation .

The National Sleep Foundation convened experts from sleep, anatomy and physiology, as well as pediatrics, neurology, gerontology and gynecology to reach a consensus from the broadest range of scientific disciplines. The panel revised the recommended sleep ranges for all six children and teen age groups.

“This is the first time that any professional organization has developed age-related recommended sleep durations based on a rigorous, systematic review of the world scientific literature relating sleep duration to health, performance and safety,” said Charles A. Czeisler, PhD, MD. 

The NSF is providing these scientifically-backed guidelines on the amount of sleep we need each night to improve the sleep health of the millions of individuals and parents alike.

Truly, the NSF’s recommendations will help individuals make sleep schedules that are within a healthy range. They also serve as a useful starting point for individuals to discuss their sleep with their health care providers and other care takers.

National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Duration Recommendations Chart:

Age Recommended May be appropriate Not recommended
Newborns

0-3 months

 

14 to 17 hours 11 to 13 hours

18 to 19 hours

Less than 11 hours

More than 19 hours

Infants

4-11 months

 

12 to 15 hours 10 to 11 hours

16 to 18 hours

Less than 10 hours

More than 18 hours

Toddlers

1-2 years

 

11 to 14 hours 9 to 10 hours

15 to 16 hours

Less than 9 hours

More than 16 hours

Preschoolers

3-5 years

 

10 to 13 hours 8 to 9 hours

14 hours

Less than 8 hours

More than 14 hours

School-aged Children

6-13 years

 

9 to 11 hours 7 to 8 hours

12 hours

Less than 7 hours

More than 12 hours

Teenagers

14-17 years

 

8 to 10 hours 7 hours

11 hours

Less than 7 hours

More than 11 hours

Young Adults

18-25 years

 

7 to 9 hours 6 hours

10 to 11 hours

Less than 6 hours

More than 11 hours

Adults

26-64 years

 

7 to 9 hours 6 hours

10 hours

Less than 6 hours

More than 10 hours

Older Adults

≥ 65 years

 

7 to 8 hours 5 to 6 hours

9 hours

Less than 5 hours

More than 9 hours

As it was already mentioned above, the recommendations are the result of multiple rounds of consensus voting after a comprehensive review of published scientific studies on sleep and health.

Improve your sleep from now on: Make sleep your highest priority

To get on the road to healthier sleep and a healthier lifestyle, begin by assessing your own individual needs and routines. Check how you respond to different amounts of sleep. Also, pay close attention to your mood, energy and health after a poor night’s sleep compared with a good one.

Ask yourself, “How often do I get a good night’s sleep?” Just like your good ‘diet of life,’ a critical component of your overall health is a ‘sleep of life.’ 

So, to pave the road to better sleep, follow these 7 simple and effective healthy sleep tips:

  • Stick to a sleep schedule, even on weekends.
  • Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual [e.g. yoga, acupuncture, or relaxing bedtime music]
  • Exercise daily.
  • Evaluate your bedroom to ensure ideal temperature, sound and lighting.
  • Sleep only on a comfortable mattresses and pillows.
  • Beware of hidden sleep stealers, like alcohol and caffeine.
  • Always turn off electronics before bed.

If you or a family member are experiencing symptoms such as sleepiness during daytime, or when you need to be awake and alert, snoring, leg cramps or tingling, gasping or difficulty breathing during sleep, prolonged insomnia [or other symptoms] that is preventing you from dozing off, you should consult your primary care physician or a sleep professional to determine the underlying cause. You may also try using the National Sleep Foundation Sleep Diary to track your sleep habits over 1-2 week period and show the results to your physician.

Most importantly, make sleep a top priority. It is wise to schedule sleep cycles like any other activity, so put it on your “to-do list” and cross it off every night. But don’t skip it as a thing you will do only after everything else has been done – stop doing other things so you can get the sleep you need so much. Don’t make a moonwalker of yourself!

For more information on healthy sleep, visit National Sleep Foundation’s new publication, Sleep.org, today!  To view the full research report, visit SleepHealthJournal.org.

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