Sleep: How Much Do We Need?

sleeping woman

Whether you are a child, teen, or adult, sleep is essential at any age. You must be wondering what is the required number of hours of sleep at your age, or even what your regular sleeping hours should be. Join us in this article as we guide you through these questions, as well as provide tips on best sleep habits and proper sleep hygiene. 

How much sleep do we need? 

Sleep enables your mind, refreshes the body, and strengthens almost all your body systems. Knowing how much sleep you need is the first step. Subsequently, you’ll also need to take other factors such as activity level and overall health into account.

Knowing the general recommendations for how much sleep you need is the first step. It’s important to reflect on your individual needs based on factors like your activity level and overall health. Healthy adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night, based on National Sleep Foundation guidelines. If you are over 65, 7 to 8 hours per night is a good number. Babies, young children, and growing teenagers need even more sleep to enable intensive growth and development. 

The recommended sleep times are broken down into 9 age groups: 

Age range  Recommended hours of sleep 
Newborn  0-3 months old  14-17 hours 
Infant  4-11 months old  12-15 hours 
Toddler  1-2 years old  11-14 hours 
Preschool  3-5 years old  10-13 hours 
School-age  6-13 years old  9-11 hours 
Teen  14-17 years old  8-10 hours 
Young adult  18-25 years old  7-9 hours 
Adult  26-64 years old  7-9 hours 
Older adult  65 years old or more  7-8 hours 

These guidelines are a rule of thumb for how much sleep anyone needs at any age. The ideal amount of sleep will definitely vary from person to person. However, deciding how much sleep you need means taking into account your overall health, daily level of activities, and typical sleep patterns. Here are some questions that can help you assess how much sleep you need: 

  • Is 7 hours of sleep enough for you to be healthy and productive? Or do you need more hours of sleep to increase your energy levels?
  • Do you have any existing health issues? Are you facing any higher risk for any disease? 
  • Do you expend a high level of energy on a daily basis? Are you a frequent sports player, or do you work in a labour-intensive job? 
  • Do your daily activities require alertness to carry them out safely? Do you drive or operate heavy machinery? Do you feel sleepy when engaging in these activities?
  • Have you ever had or are currently experiencing sleeping issues? 
  • Do you feel compelled to depend on caffeine to get you through the day? 
  • When your schedule is free, do you sleep more than on a typical day? 

Try starting with the sleep recommendations, then tailor your ideal amount of sleep depending on your answers to the above questions. 

What happens to our bodies when we sleep? 

Sleep is a period of rejuvenation for the body, mind and soul. Our brain can get rid of toxins and store new information while we’re asleep. Nerve cells communicate and reorganise themselves to support healthy brain function. The body then carries out cell repair, energy restoration, and releases molecules like hormones and proteins. 

What happens if we don’t get enough sleep? 

Poor sleep has severe consequences for our health in the long run, so don’t underestimate the importance of sleep! Instead of treating sleep as a luxury, we should treat it as a priority in preventing chronic medical conditions. Most of us have probably experienced the bad moods, fatigue, and lack of focus that comes from having poor sleep or a lack of sleep. At the same time, research has shown that habitually sleeping more than 9 hours can lead to poor health. 

Here are just some of the effects of not having enough sleep: 

  • Prone to falling sick as losing sleep impairs the immune system’s ability to fight illnesses
  • Short (less than 5 hours) or long sleep (more than 9 hours) durations are shown to negatively affect heart health. The chances of developing heart disease are greatly increased with less sleep. 
  • Insufficient sleep is associated with a higher risk of colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer.
  • Even skipping one night of sleep may lead to thinking issues. Brain functions such as memory, problem-solving, decision-making, reasoning, reaction time, and alertness may worsen. 
  • Your forgetfulness increases. We need proper sleep to secure new information and commit it to memory. 
  • Lack of sleep can cause you to gain weight
  • Risk of diabetes increases due to the development of insulin resistance. 
  • Driver drowsiness greatly increases the risk of car accidents. 
  • Without sufficient beauty sleep, our skin condition gets worse, with an increased likelihood of fine lines, wrinkles, and skin discolouration. 

Positive lifestyle and sleep habits to improve sleep patterns 

Having the ideal number of hours of sleep every night is not sufficient. Apart from your regular sleeping hours, good sleeping habits should be adopted to ensure proper sleep hygiene. Here are some best practices that one can adopt to improve your overall lifestyle: 

Usage of smart technology 

There are many sleep tracking technologies in the market that can collect and analyse data about your sleep, such as smartphone apps and wearable items such as smartwatches and headbands. Smart technology can record hours slept, sounds and movement during sleep, and monitor heartbeat and respiration. They help you to understand your sleep, the habits that influence it, and what you should do to improve your rest and recovery. There are even apps that have functions such as white noise, producing light which stimulates melatonin production, and the usage of gentle vibrations to help us sleep and wake up naturally. 

Tips for sleeping effectively 

Ensuring you have a conducive environment and diet is also part of the overall plan to getting quality sleep. Managing your time spent on devices is crucial too. Here are some habits that will help to improve your sleep: 

  • Ensure that you go to bed and wake up at the same time each day 
  • Exercise at least half an hour each day, but no later than a few hours before bedtime
  • Your room should not have bright lights or loud sounds. Keep the room at a comfortable temperature, and try not to watch TV or have a computer in your bedroom. 
  • Before bedtime, it’s important to relax. Reading and having a warm bath are good ideas. 
  • Don’t lie in bed awake – do an activity like reading or listening to music until you feel tired. 

Scientists continue to investigate the function and regulation of sleep. There are still many areas to be explored in sleep research, but in this sleep series, we have covered the most important things you need to know about sleep, and how you can be a better sleeper.

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