How Many Hours of Sleep Should You Be Getting?
Ask anyone how much sleep is needed in a day and you're likely to get an answer of 8 hours. It’s become a common theory that getting 8 hours of sleep each is the right amount.
The 8-hour claim isn't exactly wrong, but what should be considered is that it's not a set standard, and every person may have their own required sleep duration.
In this article, we look at how much sleep we should be getting and what happens to our body when we don't get enough of it.
The average sleep hours per age group
In most cases, the way we determine how much sleep each person needs every night is their age bracket.
Different ages and different life stages affect the required duration of our sleep, especially for the younger generations.
Having a good sleep cycle is vital for the body's restorative process.
Infants need the most sleep among all the ages, as they need it for their growth and development.
A newborn baby may need as much as 14-17 hours of sleep in a day for their first 3 months of life, and about 12-16 hours until they reach a year old.
The sleep time that infants go through is distributed into frequent naps during the daytime and a long sleep during the nighttime.
Toddlers and young children
Young children are beginning to be more active physically throughout the day compared to infants, and they are awake for more hours.
But nonetheless, they still need quite a lot of sleep. Children at 1-2 years old need about 11 to 14 hours of sleep, and children up to the age of 5 require 10-13 hours of sleep.
Just like infants, young children need as much sleep as they can get to aid in their developmental process.
Sleep in younger children needs distributed throughout the day, such as morning and afternoon naps as well as night time slumber.
School-aged kids are more energetic and have more activities throughout the day, especially if they are playing sports after school.
With that in mind, their sleep schedule can vary depending on their daily activities. Children who have activities in the afternoon may have less opportunity for afternoon naps and will go to bed earlier instead.
But, generally speaking, children from the age of 6-12 usually need 9-12 hours of sleep.
Sleep patterns in teenagers and young adults can be more sporadic when they start to have more independence in their activities and sleep schedules, and don’t have to worry about Mum and Dad telling them to go to bed.
Teenagers usually stay up later at night to catch up with friends, play games or watch Netflix.
But being in the pubescent and adolescent stage of development, a good circadian rhythm is essential to support the physiological changes teenagers go through.
A teenager needs an average of 8-10 hours each night, which is similar to the needs of adults.
The amount of sleep adults get tends to be more standard and less sporadic, especially when they get into a good sleep routine.
On average, adults require 7-9 hours of sleep, so 8 hours is that sweet spot in the middle.
Being an adult can be quite demanding with more responsibilities and activities throughout the day. Sometimes it can feel like you’re expected to fit a million things into one day, which can be exhausting.
The amount of responsibilities and independence is also the reason why a lot of adults experience sleep deprivation and other related sleep disorders. This is why it’s important to not overwhelm yourself with activities and stick to a sleep schedule.
Older adults may also experience less sleep as it is more common for them to have a lighter sleep.Adults over the age of 65 on average 7-8 hours of sleep in a day and that has been shown to be sufficient for their age group.
What happens when you don't get enough sleep?
Everyone should try to stick to the set amount of hours of sleep at night for their age for them to go through all the stages of the sleep cycle. This allows for the best sleep quality and helps you feel refreshed for the next day.
A lack of sleep reduces the time spent in deep sleep and in the rapid eye movement stage (REM sleep), which the body needs to fully repair and restore itself.
Constant sleep deprivation may also lead to health problems down the line, such as an increased risk for heart disease, mental health problems, and other health conditions.
On a positive note, a healthy sleep pattern can contribute to growth and development, better tissue repair, and a boost in your immune system.
Needless to say, if you sleep for the right amount of hours each night, you're bound to feel refreshed when you wake up in the morning.
Can I sleep less today and make up for it tomorrow?
Most adults who have trouble sleeping for the full 8 hours on one night will try to offset it by attempting to sleep longer the next day or over their weekends - this is known as sleep debt.
The more sleep-deprived you are, the more your body craves sleep later on.
While repaying your "debt" can be useful for that day, it still does not take away the lack of hours you spent on the different stages of sleep during the previous night. This also disrupts your schedule and can make it difficult to sleep later on.
It is always best to stick to a proper sleep schedule on a daily basis rather than trying to compensate for the hours on a different night.
Getting the right amount of sleep is vital to having good health and feeling refreshed and ready to tackle each day. It’s also important to be mindful of how much time you spend sleeping, which allows you to understand your body better.
Apart from getting enough hours of sleep, creating healthy sleep patterns also allows you to consistently get better sleep and significantly contribute to good health.