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How Much Sleep is Enough?

Jake Comfort  |  Updated: August 3, 2020

How Much Sleep is Enough?

Getting enough sleep is important, but how much sleep is enough? Understanding the answer to this question requires considering more factors than you might think. In addition to overall sleep time, you need to take things like sleep quality into account.

Moreover, there are lots of different factors that determine how much time you need to spend asleep in order to live your best life. After all, getting the right amount of quality sleep is an important aspect of living healthy.

This guide contains all the information you need to know to get the best sleep possible. Make sure you’re getting the right amount of sleep by using the information in this guide.

Why You Need Sleep

Everyone knows you need to sleep. However, most people don’t really understand why sleep is so important. In addition to the rested and energized feeling you get from getting enough quality sleep, there are several factors going on inside your body that make sleep important. Three of the biggest reasons you need to sleep are so your brain can process information, your body can save energy, and your cells can recover and regenerate. We’ll look at each of these reasons in a bit more detail.

The first reason you need to sleep is so that your brain can process information. A lot of data processing occurs during the four stages of sleep. Your brain spends the whole day collecting and processing information. Sleep puts your brain into a different kind of mode. While you’re sleeping your brain sorts out the information that it’s collected over the course of the day. Things are moved from short-term to long-term memory. Sleep scientists refer to this process as consolidation.

Consolidation is important because it helps your brain process the information you need to function at your best while you’re awake. That’s why you feel slow and groggy when you don’t get enough sleep. It makes it harder to perform at school, work, and at home. Your brain can’t access the information it needs to perform your daily tasks.

In addition to helping your brain with information, sleep is also essential to conserve and replenish your body’s energy. When your brain is awake it takes a lot of energy. Your awake body also takes more energy to do things like keep warm. Sleeping allows your brain and body to put energy into reserve so you’re ready to take on your day.

Finally, sleep is essential to muscle repair and your immune system. When you sleep your body releases hormones that aid in the rebuilding of muscle tissue. That means you can recover from your exercise. Sleep also releases white blood cells into your body. These are the cells that are responsible for helping you fight off illnesses like viruses and bacteria.

To summarize, the reasons you need sleep are:

  • Better brain functions like memory and concentration
  • Improved immune system functioning
  • Better athletic performance and muscle building
  • Improved energy recovery and reserves.
How Much Sleep is Enough?

Factors That Determine if You’re Getting Enough Sleep

Now that you understand why it’s important for you to get enough sleep you need to know how much sleep you actually need. There are several factors that go into how much sleep you need. The biggest ones are personal motivation, age, chronotype, and genetics.

  • Personal motivation: How much you want to be asleep or awake plays a surprisingly large role in how much sleep you get. It can also greatly affect the quality of your sleep. People that have ha strong desire to stay awake can will themselves to override their body’s natural desire to sleep. Regardless of what you want though, your body’s need for sleep will eventually win out.
  • Age is one of the most important factors when it comes to how much sleep you need. That’s because the body does different things at different ages. This is related to the way that your body develops. Younger people need more sleep than older people. This is especially true for children and teens, as their bodies are still developing and growing. Sleep provides the hormones needed to grow muscles and bones, ensuring healthy development in young people.
  • Genetics play a role in how much sleep you get. There are several aspects of your DNA that help determine how much sleep you need. Some adults need as much as 9 hours of sleep each night, while those with a gene mutation called DEC2 can function after four to six hours of sleep.
  • Chronotype is a fancy way of describing the body’s internal clock. This is different for every person and is the quality that sets night owls apart from early birds. Morning people have an internal clock that runs a bit faster than the standard 24 hours, while people who prefer to be up at night have a slower internal clock. Understanding what your internal clock does is an essential part of knowing how much sleep you need to get.

As you can see, these factors play a large role in determining how much sleep you need. That means understanding how these factors relate to yourself and your needs is essential to determining your own personal sleep requirements.

Understanding General Sleep Recommendations

There are lots of different studies that recommend different amounts of sleep. We’ve done extensive research on the subject and will summarize it here so you don’t need to pour through difficult and dense scientific journals to understand what the scientific community has to say. Most studies break down sleep recommendations by age. The recommendations are:

  • Newborns (0-3 months) – 14 to 17 hours of sleep per day
  • Infants (4-11 months) – 12 to 15 hours of sleep per day
  • Toddlers (1-2 years) – 11 to 14 hours of sleep per day
  • Preschoolers (3-5 years) – 10 to 13 hours of sleep per day
  • Early School Children (6-13 years) – 9 to 11 hours of sleep per day
  • Teenagers (14-17 years) – 8 to 10 hours of sleep per day
  • Young Adults (18-25 years) – 7 to 9 hours of sleep per day
  • Adults (26-65 years) – 7 to 9 hours of sleep per day
  • Older Adults (65+ years) – 7 to 8 hours per day

These recommendations are a good basic guide to understanding how much sleep you need. Remember that your personal sleep needs could be different. These differences are most likely to show themselves as you get older.

Things That Affect How Long You Sleep

There are several factors that determine how long you sleep. The following options are some of the best ways to understand why you’re getting the amount of sleep that you currently experience. If you want to get the right sleep time for you, then these tips are a great place to start.

  • Consider sleep problems – Conditions like insomnia, interrupted sleep, or being excessively tired during the day are signs of a sleep problem. A specialized sleep doctor can help you understand your options.
  • Listen to your body – You’ll have different levels of productivity and energy throughout the day. That’s your body’s way of telling you how much sleep you need compared how much sleep you’re getting.
  • Be wary of stimulants – Many beverages contain caffeine, which is a stimulant that can cause you to miss out on important sleep. Some people have a higher sensitivity to caffeine and other stimulants than others, so your response to things like coffee and tea might be different from other people.
  • Know how much energy you’re using – days where you engage in intensive exercise or other high-energy activities will cause you to need more sleep than days you spend behind your desk at an office. Try to get more sleep when you exercise or engage in other strenuous activity.
  • Other medical issues – there are a host of medical conditions that affect how much you sleep and the quality of your sleep. Mood disorders like anxiety and depression can cause you to sleep more or less than you normally would. If your sleep is impacted by a medical condition, then you should talk to the appropriate medical professional for treatment.

What Happens When You Don’t Sleep Enough?

Not getting enough sleep can have several negative effects on the body. Some of the biggest consequences of insufficient sleep include:

  • Hypertension
  • Depression
  • Lowered immune system
  • Weight gain
  • Diabetes

Another dangerous consequence of not getting enough sleep in a condition called microsleep. This occurs when you fall asleep for a few seconds at a time. It happens unintentionally and without warning. That makes it especially dangerous if you’re driving, working, or watching children.

Insufficient sleep makes all health problems worse. It prevents your immune system from functioning properly, so you’re more likely to get sick and stay sick longer. It also prevents your body from recovering, increasing the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, as well as more aches and pains in the morning. In short, getting the right amount of sleep is essential to living your best life.

Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Sleep?

While sleeping is essential and brings many benefits, there’s certainly such a thing as too much sleep. Excessive sleeping and oversleeping has been connected to things like depression, heart disease, diabetes, and other medical issues.

Oversleeping is also a sign of a serious medical disorder called hypersomnia. This can cause you to feel sleepy during the day, make it hard to be productive and get things done, and lead to or exacerbate conditions like anxiety and depression.

There are other things that can cause you to sleep too much, including:

  • Prescription medication
  • Alcohol
  • Depression
  • Increases in physical activities
  • Neurological disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
    How Much Sleep is Enough?

    Sleep Quality vs Sleep Quantity

    Getting enough sleep is important. But it’s also important that the sleep you get is of a high enough quality. Almost every sleep expert will tell you that six hours of good sleep is better than eight hours of interrupted or low-quality sleep.

    There are several signs that you’re getting poor-quality sleep. These signs include:

    • Trouble falling asleep
    • Trouble staying asleep
    • Waking up early
    • Trouble waking up
    • Waking up in the night

    Thankfully there are a few things you can do to improve the quality of your sleep to help ensure your body is getting the rest that it needs. Some of the best ways to improve your sleep quality are:

    • Maintain a consistent bed and wake time
    • Don’t consume caffeine or stimulants in the afternoon
    • Keep your bedroom dark
    • Don’t eat large meals or drink alcohol before bedtime
    • White noise or sound machines to minimize or eliminate distracting sounds

    These steps will all go a long way toward contributing to a healthy sleep environment. The result is that you’ll sleep better and are more likely to get the amount of sleep you need each night.

    Now that you understand how much sleep you need to get, and understand the importance of getting quality sleep, you should decide if your mattress is helping or hurting you in your sleep goals. Check out our mattress guides to see if a new mattress could be one solution to help you get the quality and quantity of sleep you need.

     

    References

    Everson CA, Bergmann BM, et al. Sleep deprivation in the rat: III. Total sleep deprivation. Sleep, Feb 1989

    Grandner M, Hale L, et al. Mortality Associated with Short Sleep Duration: The Evidence, The Possible Mechanisms, and The Future. Sleep Medicine Reviews, Jun 2010

    Dattilo M Antunes HK, et al. Sleep and muscle recovery: endocrinological and molecular basis for a new and promising hypothesis. Medical Hypotheses, Aug 2011

    Potkin K and Bunney Jr W. Sleep Improves Memory: The Effect of Sleep on Long Term Memory in Early Adolescence. PLoS One, Aug 2012

    Chaput J, Dutil C, et al. Sleeping hours: what is the ideal number and how does age impact this? Nature and Science of Sleep, Nov 2018

    Lawrence G and Muza R. Assessing the sleeping habits of patients in a sleep disorder centre: a review of sleep diary accuracy. The Journal of Thoracic Disease, Jan 2018

    Watson N, MD, Badr S, et al. Recommended Amount of Sleep for a Healthy Adult: A Joint Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society. Sleep, Jun 2015

    He Y, Jones C, et al. The Transcriptional Repressor DEC2 Regulates Sleep Length in Mammals. Science, Aug 2009

    Chaput J, Dutil C, et al. Sleeping hours: what is the ideal number and how does age impact this? Nature and Science of Sleep, Nov 2018

    Priest B, Brichard C, et al. Microsleep during a simplified maintenance of wakefulness test. A validation study of the OSLER test. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Jun 2001

    Mullington J, Haack M, et al. Cardiovascular, Inflammatory and Metabolic Consequences of Sleep Deprivation. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, Jul 2012

    Messineo, L, Taranto-Montemurro L, et al. Broadband Sound Administration Improves Sleep Onset Latency in Healthy Subjects in a Model of Transient Insomnia. Frontiers in Neurology, Dec 2017

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