Average amount of sleep

How Much Sleep Do You Really Need Each Night?

Gender Tends to Affect Our Sleep Patterns

Although most men and women need about 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night, their sleep patterns are generally different. Women often sleep more than men, and they experience a lighter sleep that is more easily disrupted. Many women also have undiagnosed sleep disorders.

Problems that can disrupt women’s sleep include depression, major life events (such as divorce), pregnancy, hormonal changes related to menopause, sleep disorders — including obstructive sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome — and medical problems like arthritis, back pain, and fibromyalgia.

Both women and men often lose sleep over job-related stress, according to research. (2)

Additional stressors that cause men to lose sleep include life issues regarding marriage or divorce, children, employment, and money. Other causes include sleep disorders, substance abuse, depression, and medical problems like epilepsy and heart disease. Men are also more inclined than women to take sleep for granted and stay up longer than they should.

Snoring is another factor that may prevent you from getting the z’s you need. Nearly 90 million of us snore to some degree at night, according to the NSF, and the reasons behind it may also be related to gender. (3) Men often have air passages that are narrower than women’s, which results in more night noise as the breath is forced through a smaller opening.

Men also tend to drink more alcohol and may imbibe to excess more often than their female counterparts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (4) Because alcohol can relax the muscles in the airway and throat, more snoring — and less sleep for bedmates — are frequent results.

Both women and men can improve their nighttime rest quality by adopting a few sleep best practices. These include adhering to the same wake and sleep schedule every day, powering down electronics at least an hour before bed, keeping the room you snooze in on the cool side (between 60 and 67 degrees is ideal, according to the NSF, (5) and sticking to a relaxing routine before bed, such as a warm bath, having a light snack, and reading quietly before tucking in.

If you believe you need professional advice about your lack of sleep, it’s a good idea to maintain a sleep diary for about a week. This will help your doctor get an accurate picture of your sleep history. Your doctor might recommend a device to keep your air passageways open, or a weight loss plan, based on your individual symptoms and needs.

Sleep Needs

How many hours of sleep do you need? What happens when you don’t get enough? Explore the stages of sleep and how to get on a healthy sleep schedule.

The quality of your sleep directly affects your mental and physical health and the quality of your waking life, including your productivity, emotional balance, brain and heart health, immune system, creativity, vitality, and even your weight. No other activity delivers so many benefits with so little effort!

When you’re scrambling to meet the demands of a busy schedule, though, or just finding it hard to sleep at night, getting by on less hours may seem like a good solution. But even minimal sleep loss can take a substantial toll on your mood, energy, mental sharpness, and ability to handle stress. And over the long-term, chronic sleep loss can wreak havoc on your mental and physical health.

Sleep isn’t merely a time when your body shuts off. While you rest, your brain stays busy, overseeing biological maintenance that keeps your body running in top condition, preparing you for the day ahead. Without enough hours of restorative sleep, you won’t be able to work, learn, create, and communicate at a level even close to your true potential. Regularly skimp on “service” and you’re headed for a major mental and physical breakdown.

The good news is that you don’t have to choose between health and productivity. By addressing any sleep problems and making time to get the sleep you need each night, your energy, efficiency, and overall health will go up. In fact, you’ll likely get much more done during the day than if you were skimping on shuteye and trying to work longer.

Myths and Facts about Sleep

Myth: Getting just one hour less sleep per night won’t affect your daytime functioning.

Fact: You may not be noticeably sleepy during the day, but losing even one hour of sleep can affect your ability to think properly and respond quickly. It also compromises your cardiovascular health, energy balance, and ability to fight infections.

Myth: Your body adjusts quickly to different sleep schedules.

Fact: Most people can reset their biological clock, but only by appropriately timed cues—and even then, by one or two hours per day at best. Consequently, it can take more than a week to adjust after traveling across several time zones or switching to the night shift.

Myth: Extra sleep at night can cure you of problems with excessive daytime fatigue.
Fact: The quantity of sleep you get is important, sure, but it’s the quality of your sleep that you really have to pay attention to. Some people sleep eight or nine hours a night but don’t feel well rested when they wake up because the quality of their sleep is poor.

Myth: You can make up for lost sleep during the week by sleeping more on the weekends.
Fact: Although this sleeping pattern will help relieve part of a sleep debt, it will not completely make up for the lack of sleep. Furthermore, sleeping later on the weekends can affect your sleep-wake cycle so that it is much harder to go to sleep at the right time on Sunday nights and get up early on Monday mornings.

Source: Your Guide to Healthy Sleep, The National Institutes of Health

How many hours of sleep do you need?

There is a big difference between the amount of sleep you can get by on and the amount you need to function optimally. According to the National Institutes of Health, the average adult sleeps less than seven hours per night. In today’s fast-paced society, six or seven hours of sleep may sound pretty good. In reality, though, it’s a recipe for chronic sleep deprivation.

Just because you’re able to operate on six or seven hours of sleep doesn’t mean you wouldn’t feel a lot better and get more done if you spent an extra hour or two in bed.

While sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, most healthy adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best. Children and teens need even more. And despite the notion that our sleep needs decrease with age, most older people still need at least 7 hours of sleep. Since older adults often have trouble sleeping this long at night, daytime naps can help fill in the gap.

Average Sleep Needs by Age
Age Hours Needed May be appropriate
Newborn to 3 months old 14 – 17 hrs 11 – 19 hrs
4 to 11 months old 12 – 15 hrs 10 – 18 hrs
1 to 2 years old 11 – 14 hrs 9 – 16 hrs
3 to 5 years old 10 – 13 hrs 8 – 14 hrs
6 to 13 years old 9 – 11 hrs 7 – 12 hrs
14 to 17 years old 8 – 10 hrs 7 – 11 hrs
Young adults (18 to 25 years old) 7 – 9 hrs 6 – 11 hrs
Adults (26 to 64 years old) 7 – 9 hrs 6 – 10 hrs
Older adults (65+) 7 – 8 hrs 5 – 9 hrs
Source: National Sleep Foundation

The best way to figure out if you’re meeting your sleep needs is to evaluate how you feel as you go about your day. If you’re logging enough sleep hours, you’ll feel energetic and alert all day long, from the moment you wake up until your regular bedtime.

Think six hours of sleep is enough?

Think again. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, discovered that some people have a gene that enables them to function well on six hours of sleep a night. This gene, however, is very rare, appearing in less than 3% of the population. For the other 97% of us, six hours doesn’t come close to cutting it.

The importance of deep sleep and REM sleep

It’s not just the number of hours you spend asleep that’s important—it’s the quality of those hours. If you give yourself plenty of time for sleep but still have trouble waking up in the morning or staying alert all day, you may not be spending enough time in the different stages of sleep.

Each stage of sleep in your sleep cycle offers different benefits. However, deep sleep (the time when the body repairs itself and builds up energy for the day ahead) and mind and mood-boosting REM sleep are particularly important. You can ensure you get more deep sleep by avoiding alcohol, nicotine, and being woken during the night by noise or light. While improving your overall sleep will increase REM sleep, you can also try sleeping an extra 30 minutes to an hour in the morning, when REM sleep stages are longer. See The Biology of Sleep to learn more.

Signs that you’re not getting enough sleep

If you’re getting less than eight hours of sleep each night, chances are you’re sleep deprived. What’s more, you probably have no idea just how much lack of sleep is affecting you.

How is it possible to be sleep deprived without knowing it? Most of the signs of sleep deprivation are much more subtle than falling face first into your dinner plate. Furthermore, if you’ve made a habit of skimping on sleep, you may not even remember what it feels like to be truly wide-awake, fully alert, and firing on all cylinders. Maybe it feels normal to get sleepy when you’re in a boring meeting, struggling through the afternoon slump, or dozing off after dinner, but the truth is that it’s only “normal” if you’re sleep deprived.

You may be sleep deprived if you…

  • Need an alarm clock in order to wake up on time
  • Rely on the snooze button
  • Have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning
  • Feel sluggish in the afternoon
  • Get sleepy in meetings, lectures, or warm rooms
  • Get drowsy after heavy meals or when driving
  • Need to nap to get through the day
  • Fall asleep while watching TV or relaxing in the evening
  • Feel the need to sleep in on weekends
  • Fall asleep within five minutes of going to bed

The effects of sleep deprivation

While it may seem like losing sleep isn’t such a big deal, sleep deprivation has a wide range of negative effects that go way beyond daytime drowsiness. Lack of sleep affects your judgment, coordination, and reaction times. In fact, sleep deprivation can affect you just as much as being drunk.

The effects include:

  • Fatigue, lethargy, and lack of motivation
  • Moodiness and irritability; increased risk of depression
  • Decreased sex drive; relationship problems
  • Impaired brain activity; learning, concentration, and memory problems
  • Reduced creativity and problem-solving skills; difficulty making decisions
  • Inability to cope with stress, difficulty managing emotions
  • Premature skin aging
  • Weakened immune system; frequent colds and infections; weight gain
  • Impaired motor skills and increased risk of accidents; hallucinations and delirium
  • Increased risk of serious health problems including stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and certain cancers

How sleep deprivation can add to your waistline

Ever noticed how when you’re short on sleep you crave sugary foods that give you a quick energy boost? There’s a good reason for that. Sleep deprivation has a direct link to overeating and weight gain.

There are two hormones in your body that regulate normal feelings of hunger and fullness. Ghrelin stimulates appetite, while leptin sends signals to the brain when you are full. However, when you don’t get the sleep you need, your ghrelin levels go up, stimulating your appetite so you want more food than normal, and your leptin levels go down, meaning you don’t feel satisfied and want to keep eating. So, the more sleep you lose, the more food your body will crave.

How to get the sleep that you need

Whether you’re looking to resolve a specific sleep problem, or just want to feel more productive, mentally sharp, and emotionally balanced during the day, experiment with the following sleep tips to see which work best for you:

Rule out medical causes for your sleep problems. A sleep disturbance may be a symptom of a physical or mental health issue, or a side-effect of certain medications.

Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Support your biological clock by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, including weekends.

Get regular exercise. Regular exercise can improve the symptoms of many sleep disorders and problems. Aim for 30 minutes or more of activity on most days—but not too close to bedtime.

Be smart about what you eat and drink. Caffeine, alcohol, and sugary foods can all disrupt your sleep, as can eating heavy meals or drinking lots of fluids too close to bedtime.

Get help with stress management. If the stress of managing work, family, or school is keeping you awake at night, learning how to handle stress in a productive way can help you sleep better at night.

Improve your sleep environment. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool, and reserve your bed for just sleeping and sex.

Develop a relaxing bedtime routine. Avoid screens, work, and stressful conversations late at night. Instead, wind down and calm your mind by taking a warm bath, reading by a dim light, or practicing a relaxation technique to prepare for sleep.

Postpone worrying. If you wake during the night feeling anxious about something, make a brief note of it on paper and postpone worrying about it until the next day when it will be easier to resolve.

The amount of sleep a child needs varies depending on the individual and certain factors, including the age of the child. Following are some general guidelines:

1-4 Weeks Old: 15 – 16 hours per day

Newborns typically sleep about 15 to 18 hours a day, but only in short periods of two to four hours. Premature babies may sleep longer and colicky ones shorter.

Since newborns do not yet have an internal biological clock, or circadian rhythm, their sleep patterns are not related to the daylight and nighttime cycles. In fact, they tend not to have much of a pattern at all.

1-4 Months Old: 14 – 15 hours per day

By 6 weeks of age your baby is beginning to settle down a bit, and you may notice more regular sleep patterns emerging. The longest periods of sleep run four to six hours and now tends to occur more regularly in the evening. Day-night confusion ends.

4-12 Months Old: 14 – 15 hours per day

While up to 15 hours is ideal, most infants up to 11 months old get only about 12 hours of sleep. Establishing healthy sleep habits is a primary goal during this period, as your baby is now much more social, and his sleep patterns are more adult-like.

Babies typically have three naps and drop to two at around 6 months old, at which time (or earlier) they are physically capable of sleeping through the night. Establishing regular naps generally happens at the latter part of this time frame, as the biological rhythms mature. The midmorning nap usually starts at 9 a.m. and lasts about an hour. The early afternoon nap starts between noon and 2 p.m. and lasts an hour or two. And the late afternoon nap may start anywhere from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and usually varies in length.

1-3 Years Old: 12 – 14 hours per day

As your child moves past the first year toward 18-21 months of age he will likely lose his morning and early evening nap and nap only once a day. While toddlers need up to 14 hours a day of sleep, they typically get only about 10.

How Much Sleep Does a Person Need?

Sleep deprivation for even one or two nights can vastly affect your need for sleep. Unlike many things in life, sleep time is not something that is routinely changed. You can’t get used to a lower amount of sleep just because it fits your schedule. If you try to, it will affect your judgment and reaction time, even if you are not consciously aware of it. But you can’t resist it for long. Sleep deficit can be cured only by getting some sleep.

What happens when we miss sleep and then make it up? Even with free recovery, only one-third to one-half of lost sleep is recovered. All the lost deep sleep is recovered and about ½ of the REM sleep. Time spent in light sleep is lost.

If you routinely fall asleep within 5 minutes of lying down, you probably have sleep deprivation or a sleep disorder. Microsleeps, or very brief episodes of sleep in an otherwise awake person, are another mark of sleep deprivation. In many cases, people are not aware that they are experiencing microsleeps. Some suspect that the widespread practice of “burning the candle at both ends” among harried workaholics has changed perceptions so much that what is really abnormal sleepiness is now considered normal.

It is known that both long sleepers and short sleepers have higher mortality rates than people who sleep around the standard 8 hours. Sleep debt is also connected with higher rates of depression and weight gain, as well as poorer immune system and memory function.

Objective tests on healthy people show that depriving them of deep sleep negatively affects cognitive skills. People who suffer from insomnia get less deep sleep, and tend to subjectively equate this decline in deep sleep with an overall decline in sleep quality.

Seniors in particular are prone to insomnia. Some experts consider insomnia a normal part of aging, or it may result from medical problems that are common in elderly people and from the medications and other treatments for those problems.

How Much Sleep Is Enough? How Much Is Too Much?

  • Getting eight hours of sleep per night is old news.
  • Research from the University of California, San Diego suggests that sleeping five hours per night is slightly safer than sleeping eight.
  • These findings support what I’ve been saying for years: sleep quality matters more than sleep quantity.
    Get Bulletproof tips to sleep better, faster, starting tonight.

You’ve heard it before: “Everyone needs eight hours of sleep per night.”

A study out of the University of California, San Diego paints a different story. The 2010 paper suggests the secret to a long life has to do with getting just enough sleep, not necessarily eight hours of sleep per night. The study looked at 1.1 million people’s sleep patterns over the course of six years, tracking the amount of sleep each subject averaged alongside their longevity.

Its major finding: Sleeping as little as five hours per night can be better for you than sleeping eight.

How much sleep do you really need?

The study was run by Dr. Daniel F. Kripke, MD, a professor of psychiatry specializing in sleep research and aging. Researchers didn’t find any statistical health-related reason to sleep longer than six and a half hours per night.

He used data from the Cancer Prevention Study II (CPSII) from the American Cancer Society that shows sleeping for about five hours per night is slightly safer than sleeping eight. In this case, we’ll go ahead and define “safer” as “not dying.”

The UCSD study’s data is impressive. The data is from 1982-1988 because it took years to input the data and analyze it. It covers 1.1 million participants, and it is the first large-scale population study that correlates sleep with longevity while taking into account things like age, diet, exercise, health problems and smoking.
I’m not sure where the sleep-8-hours-per-night myth came from, but it’s totally wrong. You can file it away under old information, along with the eat-fewer-calories-to-lose-weight myth.

Mental and physical benefits of sleep

Doctors, health experts and athletes agree that getting consistent, quality sleep is critical. Here are just a few studies that prove just that:

The mental benefits

  • Improves your ability to learn new motor skills by 20 percent
  • Increases your ability to gain new insight into complex problems by 50 percent
  • Enhances well-being and mood

The physical benefits

  • Good sleep promotes skin health and a youthful appearance.
  • Sleep increases athletic performance.
  • Sleep helps regulate your hormones and may even increase testosterone levels.

If sleep is so awesome, why get less of it? The short answer is: It’s the quality of your sleep that matters, not the quantity.

How to hack your sleep

If you find that you need a ton of sleep, your body is trying to tell you something. Stress, over-exercising and diet are all common reasons you might find yourself feeling so fatigued. That’s where biohacking comes to the rescue.

  • Learn how to sleep smarter, not longer with these Bulletproof sleep solutions.
  • Try these seven sleep hacks to improve your shut-eye, starting tonight.
  • If you want to fall asleep easier, avoid blue light after dark. Get the details here.
  • Beat stress, fall asleep and stay asleep with my own natural solution for more restful and refreshing sleep: Bulletproof Sleep Mode. It combines L-ornithine and plant-sourced melatonin in a dose that will help you sleep better, faster, without leaving you groggy the next morning.

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Is your heart rate spiking while you sleep?

Adults, age 30-39 years old

Humans don’t really outgrow their need for sleep. Instead, sleep may seem to get harder and harder to come by, or we tend to prioritize it less. Still, people in their 30s should aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night. And, there are some helpful things you can do for your family’s sleep health.

You may have a parent or older relative that has been formally diagnosed with sleep apnea. Perhaps they use a CPAP to breathe consistently at night, and you may be wondering if hereditary factors will give you the same fate some day. Whether or not you’ll develop sleep apnea yourself depends on genetics, lifestyle, environment, and physiology.

If you or your bed partner have noticed you have particularly loud snoring, gasp for breath at night, or are often mysteriously tired during the day, it’s worth getting checked for sleep apnea.

It’s also wise to start monitoring the sleep habits of your young children, as there isn’t an arbitrary age limit as far as when sleep apnea can occur. Studies have suggested that as many as 25 percent of kids who are diagnosed with ADHD may in fact have symptoms of sleep apnea. And, chronically interrupted and fragmented sleep may be the cause behind symptoms like learning difficulties and behavior issues. Chronic snoring in children should always prompt testing for sleep apnea.

Adults, age 40-64 years old

Sleep patterns and habits laid out earlier in our lives tend to follow us through adulthood. The recommended number of hours of sleep each night for this age bracket is-—surprise!—between seven and nine hours. Continue to use sleep calculators and the no-alarm test to pinpoint what your optimal amount of sleep is. The variations within the sleep need range differ from one individual to the next.

It is often within this age period that women start to experience signs of menopause. Fluctuations in estrogen levels can interrupt sleep, and 61 percent of menopausal women reported symptoms of insomnia, which may be caused by unrecognized sleep apnea. Weight gain, loss of muscle tone, and other causes of snoring and sleep apnea also increase for women during this time.

Adults, age 65 and older

It’s a bit of a myth that we require much less sleep as we age. Those over the age of 65 should aim for between seven and eight hours of sleep each night.

A common observation is that seniors just aren’t sleeping as much as adults of younger ages, but the change really isn’t that drastic. This shift in sleep is due to changes in their “sleep architecture” – how sleep phases play out during the course of an evening. Deep, slow-wave sleep may be reduced. Instances of insomnia are also higher among older adults, which again may be due to sleep apnea.

The circadian rhythms of a more aged population are slightly different than adults of younger ages. A shift may occur in this rhythm, called advanced sleep phase syndrome, causing the elderly to become more tired earlier in the evening and to wake up earlier in the morning. The reason why this happens as we age is not fully understood, but it may be due to changes within the eye (such as clouding of the lens) that affect light perception.

Regaining sleep deficits

If you think you’re operating under a sleep deficit, there are a few things you can do. Many people try to catch up on their sleep to repay their sleep debt by sleeping in on the weekend. This works sometimes, but not always, especially if the deficit is too great. A more sustainable, long-lasting solution is to start out by simply going to bed a little earlier each night on weeknights. Even if you start out with just 15 extra minutes of extra sleep, it can add up.

Other tips for eliminating your sleep deficit include sticking to a regular schedule of when you go to bed and especially when you get up. Avoid alcohol and caffeine at least four hours before bedtime, and get into a state of relaxation before bed that doesn’t involve screens.

Chronic sleep deprivation and sleep-disordered breathing (like snoring and sleep apnea) have been linked to many health issues and chronic conditions, including diabetes, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. Taking care to monitor your breathing patterns and sleep quality can do wonders for your overall sleep health.

When you make sleep a priority, you’re giving yourself the gift of better health and a longer life.

Brandon R. Peters, M.D., is board-certified in both neurology and sleep medicine and currently practices at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle. He is also a Clinical Affiliate at Stanford University’s School of Medicine in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. His latest book, Insomnia Solved, is available on Amazon.

Sleep is one of the richest topics in science today: why we need it, why it can be hard to get, and how that affects everything from our athletic performance to our income. Daniel Kripke, co-director of research at the Scripps Clinic Sleep Center in La Jolla, Calif., has looked at the most important question of all. In 2002, he compared death rates among more than 1 million American adults who, as part of a study on cancer prevention, reported their average nightly amount of sleep. To many, his results were surprising, but they’ve since been corroborated by similar studies in Europe and East Asia. Kripke explains.

Q: How much sleep is ideal?

A: Studies show that people who sleep between 6.5 hr. and 7.5 hr. a night, as they report, live the longest. And people who sleep 8 hr. or more, or less than 6.5 hr., they don’t live quite as long. There is just as much risk associated with sleeping too long as with sleeping too short. The big surprise is that long sleep seems to start at 8 hr. Sleeping 8.5 hr. might really be a little worse than sleeping 5 hr.

Morbidity is also “U-shaped” in the sense that both very short sleep and very long sleep are associated with many illnesses—with depression, with obesity—and therefore with heart disease—and so forth. But the for different health measures isn’t all in the same place. Most of the low points are at 7 or 8 hr., but there are some at 6 hr. and even at 9 hr. I think diabetes is lowest in 7-hr. sleepers . But these measures aren’t as clear as the mortality data.

I think we can speculate , but we have to admit that we don’t really understand the reasons. We don’t really know yet what is cause and what is effect. So we don’t know if a short sleeper can live longer by extending their sleep, and we don’t know if a long sleeper can live longer by setting the alarm clock a bit earlier. We’re hoping to organize tests of those questions.

One of the reasons I like to publicize these facts is that I think we can prevent a lot of insomnia and distress just by telling people that short sleep is O.K. We’ve all been told you ought to sleep 8 hr., but there was never any evidence. A very common problem we see at sleep clinics is people who spend too long in bed. They think they should sleep 8 or 9 hr., so they spend in bed, with the result that they have trouble falling asleep and wake up a lot during the night. Oddly enough, a lot of the problem is lying in bed awake, worrying about it. There have been many controlled studies in the U.S., Great Britain and other parts of Europe that show that an insomnia treatment that involves getting out of bed when you’re not sleepy and restricting your time in bed actually helps people to sleep more. They get over their fear of the bed. They get over the worry, and become confident that when they go to bed, they will sleep. So spending less time in bed actually makes sleep better. It is in fact a more powerful and effective long-term treatment for insomnia than sleeping pills.

Sleep is food for the brain. During sleep, important body functions and brain activity occur. Skipping sleep can be harmful — even deadly, particularly if you are behind the wheel. You can look bad, you may feel moody, and you perform poorly. Sleepiness can make it hard to get along with your family and friends and hurt your scores on school exams, on the court or on the field. Remember: A brain that is hungry for sleep will get it, even when you don’t expect it. For example, drowsiness and falling asleep at the wheel cause more than 100,000 car crashes every year. When you do not get enough sleep, you are more likely to have an accident, injury and/or illness.

Facts

  • Sleep is vital to your well-being, as important as the air you breathe, the water you drink and the food you eat. It can even help you to eat better and manage the stress of being a teen.
  • Biological sleep patterns shift toward later times for both sleeping and waking during adolescence — meaning it is natural to not be able to fall asleep before 11:00 pm.
  • Teens need about 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night to function best. Most teens do not get enough sleep — one study found that only 15% reported sleeping 8 1/2 hours on school nights.
  • Teens tend to have irregular sleep patterns across the week — they typically stay up late and sleep in late on the weekends, which can affect their biological clocks and hurt the quality of their sleep.
  • Many teens suffer from treatable sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy, insomnia, restless legs syndrome or sleep apnea.

Consequences

Not getting enough sleep or having sleep difficulties can:

  • Limit your ability to learn, listen, concentrate and solve problems. You may even forget important information like names, numbers, your homework or a date with a special person in your life
  • Make you more prone to pimples. Lack of sleep can contribute to acne and other skin problems
  • Lead to aggressive or inappropriate behavior such as yelling at your friends or being impatient with your teachers or family members
  • Cause you to eat too much or eat unhealthy foods like sweets and fried foods that lead to weight gain
  • Heighten the effects of alcohol and possibly increase use of caffeine and nicotine
  • Contribute to illness, not using equipment safely or driving drowsy

Solutions

  • Make sleep a priority. Review Teen Time in this toolkit and keep a sleep diary. Decide what you need to change to get enough sleep to stay healthy, happy, and smart!
  • Naps can help pick you up and make you work more efficiently, if you plan them right. Naps that are too long or too close to bedtime can interfere with your regular sleep.
  • Make your room a sleep haven. Keep it cool, quiet and dark. If you need to, get eyeshades or blackout curtains. Let in bright light in the morning to signal your body to wake up.
  • No pills, vitamins or drinks can replace good sleep. Consuming caffeine close to bedtime can hurt your sleep, so avoid coffee, tea, soda/pop and chocolate late in the day so you can get to sleep at night. Nicotine and alcohol will also interfere with your sleep.
  • When you are sleep deprived, you are as impaired as driving with a blood alcohol content of .08%, which is illegal for drivers in many states. Drowsy driving causes over 100,000 crashes each year. Recognize sleep deprivation and call someone else for a ride. Only sleep can save you!
  • Establish a bed and wake-time and stick to it, coming as close as you can on the weekends. A consistent sleep schedule will help you feel less tired since it allows your body to get in sync with its natural patterns. You will find that it’s easier to fall asleep at bedtime with this type of routine.
  • Don’t eat, drink, or exercise within a few hours of your bedtime. Don’t leave your homework for the last minute. Try to avoid the TV, computer and telephone in the hour before you go to bed. Stick to quiet, calm activities, and you’ll fall asleep much more easily!
  • If you do the same things every night before you go to sleep, you teach your body the signals that it’s time for bed. Try taking a bath or shower (this will leave you extra time in the morning), or reading a book.
  • Try keeping a diary or to-do list. If you jot notes down before you go to sleep, you’ll be less likely to stay awake worrying or stressing.
  • When you hear your friends talking about their all-nighters, tell them how good you feel after getting enough sleep.
  • Most teens experience changes in their sleep schedules. Their internal body clocks can cause them to fall asleep and wake up later. You can’t change this, but you can participate in interactive activities and classes to help counteract your sleepiness. Make sure your activities at night are calming to counteract your already heightened alertness.

If teens need 8 to 10 hours of sleep to do their best and naturally go to sleep around 11:00 pm, one way to get more sleep is to start school later.

Teens’ natural sleep cycle puts them in conflict with school start times. Most high school students need an alarm clock or a parent to wake them on school days. They are like zombies getting ready for school and find it hard to be alert and pay attention in class. Because they are sleep deprived, they are sleepy all day and cannot do their best.

Schools that have set later bell times find that students do not go to bed later, but get one hour more of sleep per school night, which means five hours more per week.

Enrollment and attendance improves and students are more likely to be on time when school starts. Parents and teachers report that teens are more alert in the morning and in better moods; they are less likely to feel depressed or need to visit the nurse or school counselor.

Poll Data

While everyone is accustomed to having a bad morning here and there – feeling irritable, unhappy or even sad, NSF’s 2006 Sleep in America poll found that many adolescents exhibit symptoms of a depressive mood on a frequent if not daily basis, and these teens are more likely to have sleep problems.

The NSF poll calculated depressive mood scores for each of the 1,602 poll respondents by measuring adolescents’ responses to four mood states (using a scale of “1” to “3” where 1 equals “not at all” and 3 equals “much”):

  • Felt unhappy, sad or depressed

  • Felt hopeless about the future

  • Felt nervous or tense

  • Worried too much about things

The results showed that about half (46%) of the adolescents surveyed had a depressive mood score of 10 to 14, 37% had a score of 15 to 19, and 17% had a score of 20 to 30; these scores are considered low, moderate and high respectively.

Most notably, those adolescents with high scores ranging from 20 to 30 were more likely than those with lower scores to take longer to fall asleep on school nights, get an insufficient amount of sleep and have sleep problems related to sleepiness. In fact, 73% of those adolescents who report feeling unhappy, sad, or depressed also report not getting enough sleep at night and being excessively sleepy during the day.

While many adults may think that adolescents have things easy or don’t have much to worry about – the opposite seems true according to the NSF poll. Most adolescents were likely to say they worried about things too much (58%) and/or felt stressed out/anxious (56%). Many of the adolescents surveyed also reported feeling hopeless about the future, or feeling unhappy, sad or depressed much or somewhat within the past two weeks of surveying.

Research shows that lack of sleep affects mood, and a depressed mood can lead to lack of sleep. To combat this vicious cycle, sleep experts recommend that teens prioritize sleep and focus on healthy sleep habits. Teens can start by getting the 8 to 10 hours of sleep they need each night, keeping consistent sleep and wake schedules on school nights and weekends, and opting for relaxing activities such as reading or taking a warm shower or bath before bed instead of turning on the TV or computer.

“If parents and teens know what good sleep entails and the benefits of making and sticking to a plan that supports good sleep, then they might re-examine their choices about what truly are their ‘essential’ activities,” says Mary Carskadon, Ph.D., Director of Chronobiology/Sleep Research at the E.P. Bradley Hospital and Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown Medical School in Providence, R.I. “The earlier parents can start helping their children with good sleep habits, the easier it will be to sustain them through the teen years.”

Additional Information

  • School Start Times and Sleep

Chances are, you can get a bit more flexible with the kids’ bedtime—that’s based on new guidelines from the National Sleep Foundation on the amount of sleep recommended for each age range.

For children’s age groups besides newborns, the 18-member panel of sleep experts and researchers allowed for about one less hour of sleep than it did before. For newborns, the recommended minimum was raised from 12 hours to 14 hours.

Age Recommended hours of sleep Hours that may be appropriate Hours not recommended
0-3 months 14 to 17 11 to 13, 18 to 19 Less than 11, more than 19
4-11 months 12 to 15 10 to 11, 16 to 18 Less than 10, more than 18
1-2 years 11 to 14 9 to 10, 15 to 16 Less than 9, more than 16
3-5 years 10 to 13 8 to 9, 14 Less than 8, more than 14
6-13 years 9 to 11 7 to 8, 12 Less than 7, more than 12
14-17 years 8 to 10 7, 11 Less than 7, more than 11
18-25 years 7 to 9 6, 10 to 11 Less than 6, more than 11

Researchers reviewed 312 articles on sleep and its effects to determine the guidelines. Notably, there is a wide range of acceptable sleep hours for each stage. Though toddlers should get 11 to 14 hours, some might be fine with nine or 10, the report noted. And teenagers would do well to get at least eight hours of sleep, though in reality they often get less. A 2013 US government survey (pdf, pg. 166) of high school students found that only 31.7% sleep more than eight hours on an average school night.

As Time points out, both too little and too much sleep can have negative health effects. But younger kinds tend to get almost as much sleep on school nights as is recommended, based on a 2014 National Sleep Foundation poll of parents.

The panel’s suggestions are a little different than the National Institutes of Health guidelines, which recommend 16-18 hours of sleep for newborns, at least 10 hours for school-aged children, and nine to 10 hours for teens.

How parents help their kids prepare for bed can affect their sleeping habits. The National Sleep Foundation suggests setting a consistent bedtime, avoiding big meals late in the evening, and restricting the use of electronics an hour before bedtime.

Sleep Needs by Age and Gender

Newborns and Infants

Newborns don’t have an established circadian rhythm; it isn’t established they’re 2-3 months old. Infants tend to sleep in several phases throughout the day (polyphasic), sleeping from 2.5 to 4 hours at a time. By around 12 months, infants start sleeping more at night. At this point, they start to sleep more like adults in that there are no bodily movements during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which is when people dream. Previous to 12 months, babies will move during REM sleep.

School-Age Children

Recognizing when school-age children aren’t sleeping enough can be difficult as tired kids tend to not slow down, they speed up. They’ll engage in behaviors that look like ADHD. This includes resisting going to bed at night, even though they’re tired.

Children with ADHD can cause sleep loss in children, as well as other issues such as sleep apnea (when people stop breathing for periods throughout the night). It was previously believed that sleep apnea only occurred in adults, but now the America Academy of Pediatrics recommends ask about and screen for sleep apnea in children.

Teens

According to the National Sleep Foundation, circadian rhythms shift after puberty, making teens want to go to bed after 11 pm and wake up later. With teenagers having the earliest start times, they are often getting up at 5 am to be at school by 7 am, which makes it rarer that a teen will get enough sleep. One study found that only 15% of teens reported sleeping 8.5 hours per night.

Because teens are sleep-deprived during the week, they sleep more on the weekend, which can make the problem worse. One of the top recommendations from sleep experts is to fall asleep and wake up at the same time every day.

A problem that many teens share with adults is the use of back-lit devices late at night, which can prevent sleepers from getting quality sleep.

Lack of sleep in teenagers has a long list of drawbacks, including:

  • drowsy driving leading to car accidents
  • reduced emotional control, leading to more fighting with parents, siblings, and peers
  • poor cognitive ability, focus, decision making, and reaction time, leading to poor grades, athletic performance, and choices
  • poor impulse control, which can create and strengthen bad habits
  • skin issues such as acne

Adults

Adults tend to not get enough sleep for a list of reasons:

  • stress from job and family
  • consuming caffeine too late in the day
  • looking at blue-light emitting devices within 90 minutes of going to bed
  • inconsistent sleep schedule
  • eating too late
  • lack of exercise
  • issues with the mattress: too hot, too soft or hard, and/or old

Depression rates among college-aged young adults (ages 18-25) are high, and this age group is the most likely to have serious thoughts about suicide at 7.4%. Depression is often accompanied by life changes, and this period in life is often filled with changes. Sufferers of depression often suffer from insomnia, and the relationship between sleep and depression is complex. Those who suffer from depression may have trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep, and those who don’t sleep enough are more likely to be depressed, created a cycle.

Anxiety is another condition that can prevent restful sleep. Anxiety rates are highest among middle-aged adults (ages 36-55), and anxiety is the most common mental illness in the U.S., with over 40 million sufferers, or 18.1% of the population every year. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (AADA), over 50% of adults claim that anxiety affects their ability to sleep. And similar to depression, lack of sleep can trigger anxiety, and anxiety can cause a lack of sleep.

Seniors

Many adults aged 65 and older nap during the day because they don’t get enough quality sleep at night. One of the reasons they don’t sleep well is because of medical conditions such as restless legs syndrome (RLS). The National Institutes of Health estimate that 10-35% of seniors have RLS, which results in uncomfortable sensations in the legs creating an irresistible urge to move them. Symptoms occur in the evening and often during sleep. Around 80% of people with RLS also have periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD), and one study found that around 45% of all seniors have at least mild PLMD.

Many seniors also suffer from illnesses and take medications, both of which can disturb sleep.

Another common issue among seniors is that it takes them longer to go to sleep, with one study showing 13% of men over 65 and 36% of women taking more than 30 minutes to fall asleep.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, seniors have trouble sleeping for several reasons. One is the change in the phases of sleep, where many seniors spend more time in the lighter phases of sleep and less in the deeper, more restorative phases.

Sleep fragmentation (waking up during the night) is also common, which greatly reduces the ability to wake up well rested.

Women

Women need on average 20 more minutes per night more than men, though some women need more than that. One theory as to why is because women multitask more than men and have busier schedules, which results in their brains using more energy and therefore needing more recuperation. If this theory is correct, then men that have complex jobs that require a lot of decision-making and lateral thinking will need more than the average male as well. Another possible reason is the monthly hormone cycle that occurs with menstruation.

According to the National Institutes of Health, women do sleep more than men. However, there are several things that can make it difficult for women to get enough quality sleep:

  1. Their male partners’ snore (40% of men snore as opposed to 24% of women)
  2. Menopause
  3. Pregnancy
  4. Stress from family and job responsibilities

How Many Hours of Sleep Do You Need?

Learn how to figure out your particular magic number.

Common lore would have you believe that everyone needs seven to nine hours of sleep a night to feel their best—and for the majority of adults, that’s true. However, there is (unfortunately!) no one-size-fits-all answer. Many factors (like age, your body’s base or innate need for sleep, age, sleep quality, pregnancy, and sleep debt) play a role in establishing your particular “magic number.” As you age, your sleep needs change — older adults may need less sleep, seven to eight hours after age 65, for example, than their younger counterparts.

Sleep needs are individual, and change as you age. Newborns, for example, need a total of 14 to 17 hours of sleep a day. Infants need 12 to 15 hours a day, and teens need 8 to 10 hours.

Determining How Much Sleep You Need

Ask yourself three questions to figure out whether the amount you’re currently getting is enough to keep you healthy and happy.

1. How long does it take you to fall asleep? In an ideal world, you should fall asleep 15 to 20 minutes after you hit the sheets. If you lay awake, longer, a number of factors could contribute – anxiety, caffeine, a large meal or even (gasp!) too much sleep. On the other hand, if you barely make it to the bed before nodding off, you’re probably not sleeping enough.

2. Do you need an alarm to wake up? If you’re almost always awake before your alarm goes off, or if you’re waking up multiple times during the night (and it’s not due to drinking too many liquids before bed, sipping on coffee or alcohol in the evening or an underlying sleep problem or medical condition), your brain may be trying to tell you that it’s had enough sleep. Alternatively, if you struggle to wake up in the morning when the alarm goes off, you most likely need more sleep or need to adjust your sleep schedule.

3. How do you feel? Keep a daily sleep diary by using a free or low-cost app on your smart phone or tablet. If you don’t like gadgets and would rather do it the old-fashioned way, grab a journal or the National Sleep Foundation Sleep Diary and write down what time you go to bed and get up, along with how you feel during the day. This will help you notice patterns and figure out which type of sleep routine suits you best. Don’t ignore feelings of fatigue, moodiness or anxiety—this could be your body’s way of telling you that you need more slumber.

You might find that you’re already getting an optimal amount of sleep (if so, bravo!), but when that’s not the case, take action.

Although it’s rare, there are people who get too much sleep. If you’re one of them, push your bedtime later in 15-minute increments. If you’re getting too little sleep, do the opposite—push your bedtime earlier in 15-minute increments. If you’ve tried this for several weeks and you still don’t wake up feeling refreshed, talk to your doctor to see if they can suggest another solution.

If you’ve been deprived of sleep recently, you may have what’s called sleep debt. Learn how to factor that in and get your body back on track.

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