How much sleep do you really need?
How much sleep do you really need?

Plenty of scenarios might prompt you to wonder, “How much sleep do I need? No, seriously, exactly how many hours are required for me to be fully functioning but also not spend my whole life in bed?”.

Maybe this thought arises as you start yet another romcom on Netflix when you should already be sleeping. Or perhaps you always want an afternoon nap even though you regularly clock eight hours. No matter why you’re wondering how many hours of sleep you need, we’re here to help.

How much sleep do I need?

Generally, people age 18 to 65 function best on seven to nine hours of sleep a night, according to National Sleep Foundation (NSF) guidelines published in 2015. In the sleep medicine industry, these recommendations are usually seen as the definitive answer to the “How much sleep do I need?” question.

Sleep needs for other age groups vary slightly. The NSF divides people under 18 into six categories, each with different recommendations. For instance, newborns who are up to 3 months old require 14 to 17 hours of sleep every day. (What a life!) Adolescents 14 to 17 should get 8 to 10 nightly hours of rest. Then there are people over 65, who need seven to eight hours of sleep a night, according to the NSF.

So what if you need more or less than that?

A small group of people can regularly sleep more or less than recommended and be fine. These are what doctors often call short or long sleepers. For these individuals, sleeping more or less than recommended is not a sign of a health problem and does not negatively impact health. This is why “possible acceptable hours” are established that are OK for some individuals, as well as “not recommended hours,” which don’t appear to be healthy for anyone. For a select set of adults 18 to 64, six hours of rest every night can be enough. Don’t play yourself and try to get by on less than that. Fewer than six hours of sleep every night isn’t recommended for anyone in this age range.

This is what determines how much sleep you need

There are various reasons why you might feel excellent on seven hours of sleep or need every second of those nine hours. Genetics determine much of where you fall in this range. A lot of scientific interest lies in other biological factors that can alter your sleep needs, like hormonal changes. The link between sleep and hormones is complex, according to the understatement of the century. Experts know a lot, like that the hormone melatonin helps to regulate sleep-wake patterns. But they are still determining to what extent hormone fluctuations that seem entirely disconnected from sleep may be involved.

The way your circadian rhythm (or internal clock) responds to the seasons is yet another biological element here. Exposure to daylight helps to regulate your circadian rhythm, so you may notice that your sleep needs change a bit depending on the time of year.

Trouble sleeping?

If you have sleeping problems, you can read our tips to falling asleep easily  here or here. If you have tried out the tips and still have trouble sleeping, we advise you to go to your general practitioner. Are you worrying a lot and want to talk to someone about your worrying thoughts and issues? Download the NiceDay app! We offer 1 on 1 coaching. You do not have to do it alone: professionals are there for that extra support.

Tags: sleep
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Content wizard who likes good food, is interested in alternative medicine and nutrition. Also likes to paint and read.

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