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How Much Sleep Do I Need?

Lauren

Written by Lauren

Last Updated: 2nd March, 2022
Contents

It's well known that sleep can provide plenty of benefits, such as supporting cognitive functions, reducing stress, keeping your heart healthy and helping to maintain a healthy weight. However, it's essential to get the recommended amount of sleep to gain these benefits. 

Suggested sleep durations can differ depending on numerous factors, such as age, medical conditions and pregnancy. However, we have provided a rough guideline of recommendations, as well as the facts and figures relating to why getting the right amount of sleep can be essential for the mind and body.

Sleep For Different Ages 

The amount of sleep you should have largely depends on your age. The recommended sleep time is based on how much sleep you should get to maintain good health and avoid the downsides of lack of sleep. Below are the recommended sleep times for each age group; although, it's worth noting that these may differ slightly depending on the source. 

sleep for ages
  • Newborns (0-3 months) : 14 -17 hours a day (including naps) 
  • Infants (4-12 months) : 12 -16 hours a day (including naps) 
  • Toddlers (1-2 years) : 11-14 hours a day (including naps) 
  • Nursery Children (3-5 years) : 10-13 hours a day (including naps) 
  • School Children (6-12 years) : 9-12 hours a day
  • Teenagers (13-17 years) : 8-10 hours a day
  • Adults (18-65 years) : 7 - 9 hours a day 
  • Older Adults (65 +) : 7-8 hours a day

It's important to note that these recommended times can change depending on medical conditions, illnesses or pregnancy. This is also an average guideline, and there's no need to be alarmed if you're not getting the recommended amount of sleep every night. However, if you continuously struggle to get the suggested amount of sleep hours, it may be worth seeking professional help. 

Did you know?
A study✓ involving 131 pregnant women found that those who slept less than 6 hours a night during pregnancy had longer labours and were 4.5 times more likely to have a cesarean delivery. 

How Sleep Changes With Age 

As we get older, we typically require less sleep, with newborns needing almost double the amount of sleep that older adults need. For young children, sleep can be important for various reasons, including development, cognitive functions and overall health. Specifically, research✓ has found that sleep is associated with memory, language, physical growth and cognitive development. 

sleep changes

Teenagers also need slightly more sleep than adults. Research✓ suggests that insufficient sleep can lead to a lack of concentration and focus, resulting in difficulties at school. A sufficient amount of sleep is also necessary for teenagers as they are experiencing a time of rapid emotional, intellectual and physical growth. 

As we progress into adulthood, sleep patterns can change✓. This can include shortened sleep duration alongside increased naps and sleep disturbances. These changes are related to the circadian rhythm, which tells the body when it's time to sleep and awaken. The circadian rhythm begins to weaken as you get older, while sleep-related hormones also start to change. Due to this, older adults are more likely to experience sleep problems, such as insomnia.

Too Much Vs Too Little 

Many people know that lack of sleep can lead to adverse mental and physical side effects. However, getting too much sleep can also have some unfortunate consequences. Here are some of the side effects of getting too much or too little sleep.

Too Much Too Little
▢ Weight: If you're not getting the recommended amount of sleep, you could be at risk of weight gain. A six-year study✓ found that those that overslept were 25% more likely to experience an 11-pound weight gain. ◇ Alertness: It's well known that lack of sleep can lead to a decrease in alertness, concentration and focus. A study✓ in India found that sleep deprivation negatively impacted alertness, even after a single night.
▢ Depression: It's estimated that 15% of those suffering from depression experience oversleeping. Although oversleeping doesn't cause depression, it can worsen symptoms as many may feel like they've wasted the day or can fall behind on day-to-day tasks. ◇ Memory: Lack of sleep can affect various cognitive functions, including memory. While you sleep, your brain can consolidate memories, taking place in both REM sleep and slow-wave sleep. Therefore, lack of sleep can disrupt this process.
▢ Back Pain: Minimum physical activity can cause back pain, especially if your mattress doesn't suit your body type or preferences. If you're suffering back pain, it's recommended to get an orthopaedic or medium-firm mattress. ◇ Mental Health: Lack of sleep has been linked to several mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Insufficient sleep can worsen symptoms as you may experience increased stress, fatigue and irritation. 
▢ Heart Risk: It is believed that not getting the right amount of sleep can increase your risk of a heart attack or heart failure. A 12-year study✓ involving 135,685 adults found that regular oversleeping was linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. ◇ Sex Drive: Not getting enough sleep can make you feel tired with low energy. This can impact your sex life as you may feel too tired, stressed or anxious due to lack of sleep.
▢ Stroke Risk: There is some evidence that oversleeping can increase the chances of having a stroke. It has also been found that both long nappers and long sleepers were 85% more likely to suffer from a stroke than normal sleepers.  ◇ Appearance: The term beauty sleep isn't unfounded as it's no secret that lack of sleep can lead to dark circles and undereye bags. Moreover, a study✓ found that chronic poor sleep quality can increase ageing signs.

REM Sleep & Deep Sleep 

Sleep is divided into different stages, which make up your sleep cycle. This cycle typically begins with light sleep, which progresses into a deep sleep and ends with REM sleep, leading to the process starting again. 

deep sleep

As well as suggested times for sleep duration, there are also guidelines for how much deep sleep and REM sleep you should be having. During REM sleep, your body becomes temporary paralysed, and you are most likely to dream during this stage. REM sleep can be important for emotional intelligence, memory, reducing stress and brain development for infants. For this reason, it is estimated that REM sleep should make up between 20 - 25% of your overall sleep

Deep sleep, otherwise known as slow-wave sleep, is also important for mental and physical health. Benefits of deep sleep include maintaining cognitive functions, a healthy immune system, hormone balance and good heart health. It is estimated that adults should get between 13 - 23% of deep sleep each night✓, which equates to approximately  62 to 110 minutes during 8 hours of sleep.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much deep sleep do I need?

Deep sleep, or slow-wave sleep, is essential as it can be beneficial for the mind and body. Adults should be getting around 13 - 23% of deep sleep within a standard 8-hour sleep duration.

How much sleep do I need by age?

The amount of sleep you need often decreases as you get older. For infants and young children, it's recommended to get around 12 - 15 hours, while older children and teenagers should get between 9-12 hours. Most adults are advised to get between 7-9 hours a night.

How much REM sleep do I need a night?

While this can differ slightly depending on the person and any possible medical conditions, it is suggested that 20 - 23% is the standard amount of REM sleep you should be experiencing. 

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