How Much Sleep Do You Actually Need?
Sleep is essential for good health. It revitalizes your physical and mental state and helps improve your body's immune system. However, a common debate centers around how many hours of sleep a person needs to maintain their health. If you've ever wondered how much sleep is too much or too little, here are some specifics to ensure you get the amount you need.
Sleep determined by age
Age is perhaps the sole greatest determinant of how much sleep you need, according to the National Sleep Foundation. As a general guideline, the younger you are, the more sleep you need each night:
- Newborn: 14 to 17 hours
- Infant (4 to 11 months old): 12 to 15 hours
- Toddler (1 to 2 years old): 11 to 14 hours
- Preschool: 10 to 13 hours
- School-age: nine to 11 hours
- Teenager: eight to 10 hours
Once a person reaches 18 years old, seven to nine hours of sleep per night should suffice. At 65 and beyond, only seven to eight hours are necessary to maintain good mental health, physical health and brain function.
How to figure out how much sleep you need
Unfortunately, the above guidelines are just that: guidelines that aren't set in stone. Every individual may need different amounts of sleep based on their activities and lifestyle. To determine how much sleep you personally need, you may want to use the following questions and assessments:
- How much caffeine do you drink?
- Do you have sleep apnea or a history of other sleeping disorders?
- Do you go to the gym, play sports or work a manual labor job?
- Do you frequently sleep longer on weekends?
- Do you have any preexisting health conditions?
Answering these questions can help you determine whether you need more or less sleep. Generally speaking, the more energy you spend during the day, the more likely you are to need more sleep. Caffeine and alcohol can also play a role and may make sleeping more difficult.
Changing certain habits involving lifestyle and nighttime routines may provide better and more prolonged sleep. Trial and error is the best method to find the best sleep habits for you.
Benefits of a proper night's sleep
While some people love napping as part of their daily routine, others find that sleep detracts from their ability to accomplish goals for a given day. Some people ignore how much they should sleep and never set a sleep schedule, creating difficulty in getting sound sleep or causing constant fatigue. Everyone needs to understand the importance of sleep and why getting the recommended amount is essential to a healthy lifestyle.
Some of the most pronounced benefits of sleep include better mood, proper brain function, improved physical performance, increased productivity, a boost to the immune system, lower chances of motor-vehicle-related fatality and even possible weight loss (by blocking the production of ghrelin, the hormone that increases appetite).
With all of these benefits, getting your seven to nine hours of sleep a night shouldn't be taken lightly. It's an integral part of your day, and adhering to a sleep schedule provides a wealth of benefits that might otherwise be overlooked.
Tips to help you sleep naturally
Although sleep is a necessity, some people have difficulty hitting the hay. Keeping erratic hours undermines the positive effects of a sleep schedule and can cause other issues. If you have trouble achieving a consistent amount of sleep, try a few of these tips to help shut down your mind and body at night:
- Stop drinking caffeine six hours before bedtime.
- Try blackout curtains to reduce light exposure, which can throw off your circadian rhythm.
- Sleep in a cool room with a temperature between 65 and 68 degrees.
- Set a fixed schedule for waking up and going to bed.
- Disconnect all digital devices, including the television.
- Consider trying all-natural melatonin, though always consult your doctor about using supplements.
- Avoid alcohol as much as possible.
- Don't eat late at night.
This isn't an exhaustive list of measures you can take for improved sleep, but it should serve as a starting point until you can find what works for your needs.
Calculating your sleep
A sleep calculator can help you discover how much sleep is right for you, and with some fine-tuning, you should be able to find the sweet spot. Always allow yourself 15 minutes to fall asleep and stick to your schedule as much as possible. Once you find success, you'll also find more energy and vigor behind everything you do.