How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?

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written by sleep expert Lauren Hall

How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?

Sleep is one of the most important things for our health, not only for physical health but also for mental health too. Getting a good night’s sleep can help with brain coordination as well as help your body fight off illnesses and improve mood.

There is scientific research that highlights that good quality sleep is essential at all ages; it powers the mind, restores the body, and helps make cognitive connections within your brain. The hours of sleep you get will really determine far more than your energy levels for the next day.

But how much sleep do you need in order to get these benefits?

Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation, you should be getting between seven to nine hours of sleep and night. Young children, newborns, and even teenagers need longer than this to ensure adequate growth and development. Older adults should aim for 7 to 8 hours per night.

However, there it isn’t always that simple…

It’s not as simple as working out how many hours of sleep you need per night by your age; there are a few other factors to consider, such as activity level and overall health. It is important to apply healthy sleep hygiene and tips so you can get the most fulfilled night’s rest.

But don’t worry, I will be running through hour many hours of sleep you need to improve both your mental and physical health and to reap all the benefits throughout your sleep/wake cycle– check out my guide on circadian rhythms for more details.

Let’s delve in, shall we?

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How Much Sleep Do I Need? Recommended By Age Group:

So the first and most common factor to consider is the age group when it comes to working out how many hours of sleep you need. When you’re younger, you need fewer hours than when you are older as your body is growing and your brain is developing. So let’s break down each.

  • How Much Sleep Do Adults Need? On average, adults need around seven to nine hours of sleep per night, but for adults over 65 years, it is recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Young adults can range between 6-11 hours per night, while older adults can range between 5-9 hours.
  • How Much Sleep Do Teenagers Need? Since teenagers are still growing then, teenagers are recommended to get between 8-10 hours of sleep per night, but it can range from 7-11 hours to stay within the healthy range.
  • How Much Sleep Do Kids Need? Kids need even more sleep as they tend to use far more energy during the day, and they are going through key stages of growth. For toddlers, 11-14 hours of sleep is recommended; for preschoolers, around 10-13 hours is recommended, and for children up to the age of 13, it is recommended that they get 9-11 hours of sleep.
  • How Much Sleep Do Infants/Newborns Need? Newborns between 0-3 months old need roughly 14-17 hours of sleep– which any new parent will tell you feels impossible. Infants around 4-11 months old need slightly less, with 12-15 hours recommended.

Other Factors That Go Into How Much Sleep You Need:

For each age group, the guidelines are recommended for a range of nightly sleep duration for healthy individuals, but there are a few other factors to consider, so sleeping an hour above or below this range may be ideal for some people. So let’s talk about these factors in more detail.

These guidelines are served as a general rule of thumb of how much sleep children and adults need to prevent sleep deprivation, poor sleep quality, and sleep disorders. The ideal amount of sleep can vary from person to person, so of course, there is a wider range of acceptable sleep per age group.

So don’t worry, there is some wiggle room.

How much sleep you need is determined by your overall health, daily activities, and typical sleep patterns. Deciding how much sleep you need means you need to consider your overall health, daily activities, sleep needs, and sleep patterns.

For some of us, we need more than seven hours of sleep in order to feel happy, healthy, and productive during the day. Sometimes seven hours just isn’t enough, and that is fine; if you feel like you need closer to nine hours to prevent you from feeling sleep deprived, then this is a sign that that is how much sleep your body needs.

If you have a compromised immune system, then you might need more sleep for your body to properly restore your immune system and help your body fight off diseases. Here are a few other questions you can ask to see the amount of sleep you need.

  • Do you have a high level of daily energy expenditure? Do you exercise frequently or have a labor-intensive job? Do you feel like you need more sleep, so you don’t feel sleepy when doing these daily activities?
  • Do you suffer from sleep disorders or find yourself feeling sleep-deprived or struggling to get enough sleep? Then this can alter the amount of sleep you need and your sleep schedule.
  • Do you depend on caffeine to stay awake and alert throughout the day?
  • Do you sleep in on weekends more than you do on weekdays?
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 How Much Deep Sleep Do You Need?

So how much deep sleep do you need each night? Reaching those deep sleep stages is so important to restoring your body and mind throughout the night. There are five sleep stages, with the fourth and fifth being deep sleep and then Rapid Eye Movement (REM), which is when you tend to dream.

We tend to have four to six sleep cycles per night, in which we move through the sleep stages within a 90 minute period.

Did you know that when you drink alcohol your body cannot reach these deep sleep stages and tend to hover within the light sleep stages in the night? This is why when you wake up after a night of drinking you feel tired and hungover, this is the mix of the alochol leaving your sustem and your body not being able to acheive a reviving night’s rest.

But why is deep sleep so important? Well, deep sleep allows our brain to create and store new memories, which helps improve its ability to collect and recall information. This stage of sleep can also help our brain rest from a day of thinking and help replenish energy.

This is also where the saying “sleep on it” comes from, as during the night, our brain creates thought process connections, so when you wake up, you’ll feel more clear-headed and sure about the decision you are about to make.

So how much do we need?

According to scientists and the sleep research society, the recommended deep sleep amount is one to two hours for every eight hours of sleep per night. This will allow your brain to make those connections and achieve the most restorative sleep to prevent disorders like sleep deprivation.

Some people who have trouble sleeping tend to get prescribed clinical sleep medicine so they can reach those deeper sleep stages and achieve the most enriching night’s rest.

How Much REM Sleep Do You Need?

So what is REM sleep, and how much do we need? REM is characterized by rapid eye movements when your body is in this sleep stage, and it is the sleep stage most associated with dreaming. During this sleep stage, your brain activity increases again, so it is not as deep as the stage before.

Your activity levels are like they are when you are awake, which is why when you’re in this stage, you tend to have lucid, intense dreams. Your body is also paralyzed when in this sleep stage, and it is almost impossible to wake someone up when they are in the REM sleep stage.

But each stage lasts around 10 minutes to half an hour, starting off with ten minutes and then gradually getting longer on each cycle.

Although there isn’t much research on how much REM sleep you should get, it should take to 20-25 percent of your sleep. The research into how much REM sleep you should get is slightly unclear as the stage is quite confusing and differs from person to person.

How Much Sleep Is Too Much?

The night amount of sleep differs from individual to individual, but the average healthy adult shouldn’t really go over around nine hours of sleep per night. Some people say that if you get more than nine hours of sleep, you will feel like you would if you go less than seven hours.

But this is not backed up by scientific research.

If you feel like you need more than nine hours of sleep per night, then this might be an indication of an underlying condition, so you should either try to improve your sleep hygiene or go seek help from a professional. Sleep health is super important, after all.

It may also indicate that you need a new mattress as your sleep may be fragmented, so really you feel like you’re getting more than 9 hours sleep, but in reality, by waking up and tossing and turning, you’re probably getting far less.

benefits of sleeping on your back

How To Improve Your Sleep– Top Sleeping Tips:

Once you’ve worked out how much sleep you need, next up is implementing a few sleeping tips to improve your quality of sleep so you can sleep those sleep hour goals without any sleep medicine to help.

Our body sleeps best when we set the same routine for bedtime. Setting half an hour to an hour to shut off, turn off your devices, and practicing relaxing your mind in a dim light environment can help your body start to produce melatonin which induces sleep.

Building routines and a good sleep environment can really improve your sleep patterns and help achieve a good night’s sleep. Plus, with higher quality sleep, you are improving your overall health at the same time. Cutting sleep short for social activities can be tempting, but it doesn’t pay off.

Sleep is essential for both our mental and physical health.

So starting by improving your sleep hygiene, your bedroom environment, and keeping those bad sleep habits at bay is the best way to get a much better sleep quality and normal sleep each night. I have broken this all down in a full guide, but here are some quick tips to improve your sleep hygiene.

  • Something as simple as sticking to the same regular sleep schedule every night and trying not to sleep in on weekends can massively help improve sleep hygiene which helps improve sleep quality. Also, avoiding daytime naps will allow you to sleep better at night.
  • Having a relaxing routine before bed, such as having a warm bath, turning off your devices 30 minutes before you sleep, and practicing relaxation exercises, can help relax your mind, which helps you fall asleep quickly and easily.
  • It can be super difficult to fall asleep on a mattress that is uncomfortable; you’ll find yourself tossing and turning throughout the night. So choosing the right mattress is super important for achieving restorative sleep. Comfort is key to falling asleep and staying asleep.
  • Sleeping in a comfortable environment is crucial for falling asleep and getting enough sleep. In order for our body to fall asleep, our body temperature needs to drop a degree in temperature. When sleeping in a hot environment makes this very difficult, so optimizing bedroom temperature and aroma is key to getting all your sleep needs.
  • Try to reduce your intake of caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine is a stimulant and detriments your natural circadian rhythm cycle. While alcohol may make it easier to fall asleep, it means your body cannot reach those deeper sleep stages– which are the most rejuvenating and restoring.

Getting more sleep is key, but the hours of sleep you get have nothing on the sleep quality. It is possible to get the right amount of hours but not wake up feeling refreshed because your sleep was fragmented and non-restorative. This can happen when you drink alcohol or suffer from sleep disorders.

Keeping track of your sleep using a smartwatch like an AppleWatch or Fitbit can help you keep track of your quality of sleep and how long you are spending in these sleep stages every night. If you still feel restless, then seek a sleep specialist.

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Final Thoughts:

So there you have it, how much sleep you need from night to night. There are so many factors to consider when it comes to deciding your sleep needs, outside of just your age. The amount of sleep you need differs from person to person.

You may think you’re getting enough sleep, but really, you are getting fragmented poor sleep which means you wake up feeling even more tired than you were when you fell asleep. Sleep quality, as well as sleep quantity, is key.

Try a few of my tips to help you fall aslepe easier and work out how much you and your body need by your age groups so you can achieve that healthy sleep you have been craving. Improving sleep hygiene can even help with disorders like sleep apnea!

Time to get some healthy Zzzs!

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