Keeping track of your sleep schedule may not always be your top priority, but getting enough sleep is critical to your health in many ways. Getting a sufficient amount of rest each night allows your mind and body to capture sleep’s restorative benefits and avoid the consequences of sleep deprivation. But how much sleep do we really need in order to get these benefits?
When life gets busy, sleep can be one of the first things to get neglected or sacrificed. This is unfortunate because getting enough sleep is as vital to good health as eating healthy foods or getting enough exercise. The amount of sleep you get can affect everything from weight and metabolism to brain function and mood.
The impacts of sleep deprivation can be felt in both the short and long term, and include effects on physical, emotional, and cognitive health. Immediately following a night of poor sleep, you are more likely to lack energy during the day. Sleep deprivation can drag down your thinking by worsening your memory, decision-making, and problem-solving abilities. As a result, you may suffer lower academic achievement or reduced work productivity. Lack of sleep can also hinder physical performance and impair your immune system, putting you at a higher risk of infections. Over the long-term, lack of sleep has been tied to a wide range of health problems, including weight gain and obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression and anxiety, and hormonal imbalance.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to sleep. How much sleep you need changes throughout your lifetime. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer these general guidelines for different age groups:
- Birth to 3 months: 14 to 17 hours
- 4 to 11 months: 12 to 16 hours
- 1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours
- 3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours
- 6 to 12 years: 9 to 12 hours
- 13 to 18 years: 8 to 10 hours
- 18 to 64 years: 7 to 9 hours
- 65 years and older: 7 to 8 hours
In each group, the guidelines present a recommended range of nightly sleep duration for healthy individuals. It’s important to keep in mind that sleep needs can still vary, even within the same age group. In some cases, sleeping an hour more or less than the general range may be acceptable based on a person’s circumstances.