Over the years, you may have noticed that you can get away with less sleep than you used to – but does that mean a good night’s rest becomes less important as we grow up? Not exactly. Here’s an overview of what we know about sleep through the ages and the recommended amount for each bracket.
The Recommended Amount Of Sleep By Agegroup
The most current sleep recommendations were updated in 2015 by a panel of 15 experts in sleep medicine after they analysed 5,314 scientific articles on sleep.
And while the researchers note, “A clearer understanding of the precise biological mechanisms underlying sleep continues to require further scientific investigation,” they concluded that the average healthy adult needs seven or more hours of sleep per night, while younger age groups tend to require more.
Below are the official sleep recommendations, presented by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and the Sleep Research Society (SRS):
- Newborns, 0–3 months: not stated
- Infants, 4–11 months: 12—16 hours
- Toddlers, 1–2 years: 11—14 hours
- Preschoolers, 3–5 years: 10—13 hours
- Children, 6–12 years: 9—12 hours
- Teenagers 13–17 years: 8—10 hours
- Adults, 18–60: 7 or more hours
But Wait: Sleep Advice Isn’t One-Size-Fits-All
These AASM and SRS recommendations will suit most people. But as we’ve all surely experienced, there are all kinds of factors that influence how much sleep we might need on any given night.
And as Canadian researchers note in a 2018 paper on sleep duration:
“There is no magic number or ideal amount of sleep to get each night that could apply broadly to all. The optimal amount of sleep should be individualised, as it depends on many factors.”
We all have that friend who’s fine with seven hours, and one who swears they need nine. It turns out that factors such as chronic illness, diet, and activity level, can all influence whether you need more or less sleep.
“What is most important is for each individual to get the amount of sleep they need,” naturopathic sleep doctor Catherine Darley, N.D. says. “Sleep need is a bell curve.”
And while some of us will require less sleep than others, sleep deprivation is never a good thing. If you’re consistently getting less than seven hours of sleep, your body is likely suffering for it. There is also evidence that when it comes to sleep, consistency is key.
Research shows people who get four hours of sleep or less on some nights and 10 hours or more on others experience quicker mental decline than those who consistently get seven or more.
How To Get Quality Sleep
Darley notes that the most sleep-deprived age group tends to be teenagers, and the most sleep-deprived occupational groups are police, military, and health professionals. If getting at least seven hours per night on a regular basis has been a struggle for you, there are a number of approaches you can try:
1. Create A Bedtime Routine
Whatever it is you need to do to unwind and prepare for bed at night—do it! Maybe it’s taking a warm bath, doing some yin yoga, or reading with a cup of chamomile. Try leaving your phone in a different room, to resist the temptation to scroll, and opt for something that tells your brain, We’re settling down.
As co-author of Sleep for Success! Rebecca Robbins, Ph.D. says; “Sleep is a process and does take time. Prepare your body and brain for rest by prioritising relaxing activities in the 30 minutes before bed.”
2. Try A Magnesium Supplement
Magnesium is a mineral that can help promote relaxation and get the body and mind ready for bed. Allergist and immunologist Heather Moday, M.D. says magnesium assists calcium and potassium in muscle relaxation which you need for deep sleep. In addition, it inhibits the release of certain stress hormones like adrenaline and can help regulate your cortisol response.
3. Keep A Consistent Sleep Schedule
As mentioned earlier, consistency is key. And while factors like school, work, children, and stress can make it a challenge, it’s important to try to stick with a consistent bedtime and wake-up time for the sake of your brain health, overall energy levels, and more. Plus, training your body to sleep and wake up at the same time every day can help you fall asleep faster and wake up with more energy.
4. Avoid Alcohol Before Bed
And lastly, if you’re the kind of person who enjoys a glass of wine before bed, you might not want to make it a nightly thing. “Avoiding smoking and alcohol consumption immediately before bedtime is highly recommended,” NYU professor of public health Girardin Jean-Louis, Ph.D. says. “It’s long been known that drinking alcohol before bed inhibits REM sleep.”
Sleep is so crucial, and if you’re consistently getting too little or too much, it’s not something to overlook. Consider talking with your doctor if you’ve tried it all and are still experiencing issues like insomnia or low energy.
However for the average, well-rested person, following basic sleep hygiene and getting at least seven hours a night should put you in great shape for a good night’s sleep and an energised day.
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