We’ve all heard the stories, eight hours of sleep is the optimal amount of shuteye for a healthy lifestyle. But, is this really the perfect amount, and if not, you may be asking yourself, “how much sleep should I get?” The truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to sleep. How much sleep you need depends on several factors, such as age, genetics, sleep quality, and lifestyle. That said, how much sleep should you be getting each night? Let’s take a look.
Why Sleep Is Important
It may seem like an obvious point to make, but it should go without saying: sleep is essential for your health. Sleep is much more than just a time to but your body and mind to rest. It may come as a surprise, but when you sleep your body actually remains quite active.
When you sleep, your body uses this time to rebuild muscles you’ve worn down during the day and remove toxins from your brain that accumulate while you’re awake. Your brain also utilizes this time to work on keeping your memories intact.
Sleep is also a vital part of your mental health. Studies have shown that being sleep deprived for even one night can increase negative emotions by nearly 60%. Similarly, sleep deprivation can interfere with many of the body’s essential functions. These include things like appetite control, your immune system, metabolism, and body weight.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, sleep plays an important role in your body’s internal clock, also known as your circadian rhythm. Whether you’re awake or sleeping, your inner clock runs 24/7. It controls your sleep-wake cycle and can influence many of the body’s functions, including your metabolism, inflammation, and how you respond to stress.
Sleep quality is another important factor that can determine how much sleep you should get. Things like how long it takes you to fall asleep, how rested you feel the following day, how often you wake up throughout the night, and how much time you spend in the different stages of sleep can all affect your sleep quality.
Next, we’ll take a look at what happens when you don’t get enough sleep, and what you can do to improve your sleep quality.
Not Getting Enough Sleep Has Negative Consequences
It’s estimated that nearly one-third of adults and two-thirds of high school students don’t get enough sleep each night. An insufficient amount of sleep can lead to serious repercussions. Some studies have shown that sleep deprivation or poor sleep quality can leave you vulnerable to attention lapses, reduced cognition, delayed reactions, and mood swings.
One study, published in 2015 by Henry Ford Hospital’s Sleep Disorders and Research Center, found that getting only 5 hours per night for 4 nights in a row negatively affected mental performance to the same extent as having a blood alcohol content of 0.06.
Poor sleep quality or lack of sleep can also lead to negative moods, unseemly behavior, and less productivity at work, school, or other areas of life. It can also increase your chances of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Lastly, since your body uses the time you’re sleeping to cleanse your brain of toxins, it’s thought that poor sleep may be associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Now that we’ve covered why sleep is important, it’s time to answer the question, “how much sleep should I get?”
How Much Sleep Should I Get?
Everyone has their own unique sleep needs and preferences, and as a result, sleep recommendations will vary from person to person. Nevertheless, a standard place to start if you’re wondering, “how much sleep should I get?” is your age.
The recommended amount of sleep is broken down into nine age groups:
- Newborn (0-3 months): 14-17 hours
- Infant (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
- Toddler (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
- Preschool (3-5 years): 10-13 hours
- School-age (6-13 years): 9-11 hours
- Teen (14-17 years): 8-10 hours
- Young adult (18-25 years): 7-9 hours
- Adult (26-64 years): 7-9 hours
- Older Adult (65 years and above): 7-8 hours
It’s important to note that these are recommendations, not guidelines, and your sleep requirements may look different. Some people may require more or less sleep than others, which is usually determined by the two following factors.
The quality of your sleep plays a major role in determining how much sleep you need. If your sleep quality is poor, you may find that you feel tired or lethargic after waking from what should be considered the right amount of sleep. On the other hand, if your sleep quality is good, you may find that you can operate on less sleep than the recommended amount.
Poor sleep quality can be caused by several factors. The most common include:
- Poor sleep habits: This can include irregular sleep schedules, consuming caffeine or alcohol before bed, poor mattress quality, and other similar factors.
- Stress and anxiety: Poor mental health caused by stress, depression, and anxiety can lead to decreased sleep quality.
- Chronic health conditions: Certain health conditions can make it difficult to sleep, which can lead to decreased sleep quality. These include chronic lung diseases, asthma, acid reflux, renal disease, cancer, fibromyalgia, and chronic pain (painsomnia).
- Sleep disorders: Sleep apnea is a very common sleep disorder that causes temporary lapses in breathing during sleep, resulting in gasping, choking, and snoring sounds. This can cause the brain to kickstart the breathing cycle again, which can disrupt sleep quality.
Surprisingly, your genetics can play a role in determining how many hours of sleep your body needs each night. Certain genetic mutations, while harmless, can affect how long you need to sleep, what time of day you prefer to sleep, and how well your body responds to sleep deprivation.
Those with one specific mutation, known as DEC2, have been found to only require around six hours of sleep, compared to those without it who need nearly eight. Similar genes have also been linked to increased sleep deprivation characteristics, meaning that people who carry it are more susceptible to sleep deprivation, or may not experience enough deep sleep.
It’s important to note that your genetic makeup cannot be changed, and there’s no definitive, practical way to determine whether or not you carry one of the above-mentioned genes.
How to Get Better Sleep
Getting better quality sleep is important for everyone, even those who may require less sleep than normal. Fortunately, improving your sleep quality is easy, and doesn’t typically require any major changes to your lifestyle. A great place to start is to try and improve your sleep hygiene.
Sleep hygiene can be thought of in the same way as dental hygiene. Just like good dental hygiene, which involves regular brushing and flossing, sleep hygiene is all about practicing good, healthy habits that can help you get consistent, good quality sleep.
Here are some tips on how you can improve your sleep hygiene today:
- Stick to the same sleep schedule every day, even on weekends.
- Minimize potential distractions or disruptions from light and sound.
- Optimize your bedroom temperature and aroma.
- Practice a relaxing pre-sleep routine such as yoga or light stretching to help you fall asleep faster.
- Choose a mattress that is comfortable and supportive, and outfit it with good quality pillows and bedding.
- Refrain from using electronic devices such as your phone or television at least 30 minutes before you go to sleep.
- Monitor your caffeine and alcohol intake, and try to avoid consuming them in the hours before you go to bed.
Still asking, “how much sleep should I get?” Simple: pay attention to how you feel during the day, make the most of bedtime, and practice good sleep habits. If you find yourself waking and feeling sluggish, you may need to get to bed a little earlier. If you wake feeling well-rested, stick to the same schedule. As always, if you feel as though something is wrong, or if practicing good sleep hygiene isn’t helping, talk to your doctor about what options are available for you.
How Much Sleep Do You Get?
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