How Much Sleep Do We Need & How to Get It?

Updated on November 25th, 2020
how much sleep do you need by age

Over the years, we may have noticed that we can get away with less sleep than we used to—but does that mean a good night’s rest becomes less critical as we grow up? Not really. Here’s a run-through of what we know about sleep through the ages and the suggested amount for each group.

How much sleep do you need by age?

The latest sleep recommendations were updated in 2015 by a panel of fifteen experts in sleep medicine after they reviewed 5,314 scientific papers on sleep.

And while the experts note, “A thorough understanding of the exact biological mechanisms underlying sleep need continues to require further scientific research,” they concluded that the average healthy adult needs 7 or more hours of sleep per night. At the same time, younger age brackets tend to need more [1].

Here, their official sleep recommendations, suggested by the AASM (American Academy of Sleep Medicine) and the SRS (Sleep Research Society):

  • Adults, 18–60: 7 or more hours
  • Teenagers 13–17 years: 8—10 hours
  • Children, 6–12 years: 9—12 hours
  • Preschoolers, 3–5 years: 10—13 hours
  • Toddlers, 1–2 years: 11—14 hours
  • Infants, 4–11 months: 12—16 hours
  • Newborns, 0–3 months: not stated

In addition to age, other factors can impact how many hours of sleep you need [2]. For instance:

  • Pregnancy – Changes in the body during early pregnancy may increase the requirement for sleep.
  • Aging – Older adults require about the same amount of sleep as youngsters. As we get older, however, our sleeping patterns might change. Senior adults tend to sleep more lightly and for brief spans than do younger adults.
  • Previous sleep deprivation – If we are sleep deprived, the amount of sleep we require increases.
  • Sleep quality – If our sleep is frequently interrupted, we’re not getting quality sleep. The quality of our sleep is just as critical as the quantity.

Few individuals boast about feeling rested on just a few hours of sleep a night, but their performance is possibly affected. Studies show that individuals who sleep so little over many nights do not perform as well on complex mental tasks as do individuals who get closer to 7 hours of sleep a night.

[Read: Why Proper Sleep Is Important for Healthy Living]

But hold on: Sleep recommendation isn’t one-size-fits-all.

These SRS and AASM recommendations will suit most people. But as we have all surely experienced, several factors influence how much sleep we might need on any given day.

And as Canadian scientists note in a 2018 publication on sleep duration, “There is no wonder figure or ideal amount of sleep to get each night that could apply broadly to everyone. The optimal amount of sleep should be personalized, as it depends on multiple factors.”

We all have that buddy who’s fine with 7 hours and one who swears they need 9. It turns out that factors such as diet, chronic illness, and activity level can influence whether you need less or more sleep.

What is most critical is for each individual to get the amount of sleep they need. Sleep requirement is a bell curve.

And while few of us will need less sleep than others, sleep deprivation is never a healthy thing. If we’re consistently getting less than 7 hours of sleep, our body will likely suffer from it.

There is also proof that when it comes to sleep, consistency is vital. Studies indicate people who get 4 hours of sleep or less on some nights and ten hours or more on others experience rapid mental decline than those who consistently get 7 or more.

How to get quality Sleep

The most sleep-deprived age bracket tends to be teens, and the most sleep-deprived occupational brackets are military, police, and health professionals. If getting at least 7 hours per night regularly has been a struggle for you, there are several approaches you can try to catch the right amount of zzz’s for you:

1. Make a bedtime regimen

Whatever it takes, you need to do to rewind and prepare for bed at night—do it! Maybe it’s doing some yin yoga, taking a warm bath, or reading with a cup of chamomile [3].  Leave your mobile in another room to resist the temptation to scroll, and opt for something that tells you, We’re settling down.

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Sleep is a way of life and does take time. Prepare your brain and body for rest by prioritizing relaxing activities in half an hour before bed.

2. Try a magnesium supplement

Magnesium is a mineral that may aid in promoting relaxation and get the mind and body ready for bed. It assists potassium and calcium in muscle relaxation, which you need for deep sleep. Besides, it inhibits the release of specific stress hormones such as adrenaline and can help regulate our cortisol response.

3. Keep a consistent sleep schedule

As discussed earlier, consistency is crucial. And while factors like work, school, children, and stress can make it tough, it’s essential to try to adhere to a consistent bedtime and wake-up time for the sake of brain health, overall energy levels, and more [4].

Moreover, training your body to sleep and wake up at the same time daily can help you fall asleep quickly and wake up with more vigor.

4. Avoid alcohol before bed

And lastly, if you’re the kind of individual who enjoys a glass of wine before bedtime, you might not want to make it a nightly thing. Avoiding alcohol consumption and smoking immediately before bedtime is highly recommended. It’s long been understood that consuming alcohol before bedtime inhibits REM sleep.

Sleep is so critical, and if you’re consistently getting too much or too little, it is not something to overlook. Consider talking with your physician if you have tried it all and are still experiencing low energy or insomnia issues.

For the well-rested average individual, following basic sleep hygiene and getting at least 7 hours a day should put you in excellent shape for a good night’s sleep—and an energized day.

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