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Sleep Health Series: How Much Sleep Do We Need?

“I’m so tired,” moans the millennial as he watches a Youtube video on his phone in bed at 3 am.

In a time where everyone from your infant nephew to your grandma has a smartphone or iPad, where many spend their days sedentary and in front of a computer working long hours, and we’re surrounded by busy-ness and stress — sleep can often become an elusive beast. We’re all wired and tired. (Of course, you might be one of the lucky ones who has zero problems with sleep, and we might slightly resent you.)

So how much sleep do we need? While we know the what and why’s of sleep, the exact workings of sleep are still largely a mystery to researchers.

There is no one-size fits all recommendation, as there are a range of factors that can make or break a good night’s rest – including diet, exercise, genetics, lifestyle, weight, environment, and … you get the point.

However, the National Sleep Foundation compiled the foremost research on sleep and released a chart in 2015 detailing the optimal sleep each age group should get:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours each day
  • Infants (4-11 months):  12-15 hours
  • Toddlers (1-2 years):  11-14 hours
  • Preschoolers (3-5):  10-13 hours
  • School age children (6-13):  9-11 hours
  • Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours
  • Younger adults (18-25):  7-9 hours
  • Adults (26-64):  7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+):  7-8 hours

 

(Our biggest takeaway from this chart is that newborns lead the best lives. We, too, would like 14-17 hours of sleep per night and no mortgage to pay off.)

Getting the right amount of sleep can be a balancing act. Too little sleep, and you’ll be tired, less focused, prone to irritation and anxiety. Over the long run, you suffer a higher risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and obesity. And too much? You might suffer from similar problems.

Of course, getting optimal hours of sleep is one thing, but quality of sleep is a whole other matter altogether.

While referring to the chart from the National Sleep Foundation, it’s best that you also figure out what works best for you individually.

Our top tips:

  1. Keep to a regular sleep schedule all days of the week – it’ll make it easier to pinpoint the optimal hours you need and adjust accordingly. It’ll also minimize your sleep debt.
  2. Don’t use an alarm clock. Instead, let your body naturally wake up.
  3. Minimize exposure to artificial lighting during the night – especially if you live in the city.

Often, even if we don’t feel significantly sleepy, it doesn’t mean that our cognitive performance has not been affected. In a study from 2003, even as self-rated sleepiness scores of sleep-deprived participants had plateaued, performance scores on cognitive tests continued to decrease.

The Bottomline

Make sleep a priority. It’s a basic need, and can affect not only your day-to-day life and functioning, but also your long-term physical and mental health.

We know, we know, it seems like a lot to consider. Overwhelmed by the information? Sleep it off…

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