How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?

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Humans, like all animals, need sleep, along with food, water and oxygen, to survive. For humans sleep is a vital indicator of overall health and well-being. We spend up to one-third of our lives asleep, and the overall state of our “ sleep health ” remains an essential question throughout our lifespan.

Most of us know that getting a good night’s sleep is important, but too few of us actually make those eight or so hours between the sheets a priority. For many of us with sleep debt , we’ve forgotten what “being really, truly rested” feels like.

To further complicate matters, stimulants like coffee and energy drinks, alarm clocks, and external lights—including those from electronic devices—interferes with our “ circadian rhythm ” or natural sleep/wake cycle.

Sleep needs vary across ages and are especially impacted by lifestyle and health. To determine how much sleep you need, it's important to assess not only where you fall on the "sleep needs spectrum," but also to examine what lifestyle factors are affecting the quality and quantity of your sleep such as work schedules and stress.

To get the sleep you need, you must look at the big picture.

How Much Sleep Do We Really Need: Revisited

We at the National Sleep Foundation make it our mission to champion not only sleep science, but sleep health for the individual. And so, on the eve of our 25 th anniversary, we are releasing the results of a world-class study that took more than two years of research to complete – an update to our most-cited guidelines on how much sleep you really need at each age.

Eighteen leading scientists and researchers came together to form the National Sleep Foundation’s expert panel tasked with updating the official recommendations. The panelists included six sleep specialists and representatives from leading organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association of Anatomists, American College of Chest Physicians, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Geriatrics Society, American Neurological Association, American Physiological Society, American Psychiatric Association, American Thoracic Society, Gerontological Society of America, Human Anatomy and Physiology Society, and Society for Research in Human Development.  The panelists participated in a rigorous scientific process that included reviewing over 300 current scientific publications and voting on how much sleep is appropriate throughout the lifespan.

“Millions of individuals trust the National Sleep Foundation for its sleep duration recommendations. As the voice for sleep health it is the NSF’s responsibility to make sure that our recommendations are supported by the most rigorous science,” says Charles Czeisler, MD, PhD, chairman of the board of the National Sleep Foundation and chief of sleep medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, “Individuals, particularly parents, rely on us for this information.” 

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

Though research cannot pinpoint an  exact amount of sleep need by people at different ages, our new chart, which features minimum and maximum ranges for health as well as “recommended” windows, identifies the "rule-of-thumb" amounts experts agree upon.

Nevertheless, it's important to pay attention to your own individual needs by assessing how you feel on different amounts of sleep.

  • Are you productive, healthy and happy on seven hours of sleep? Or does it take you nine hours of quality ZZZs to get you into high gear?
  • Do you have health issues such as being overweight? Are you at risk for any disease?
  • Are you experiencing sleep problems ?
  • Do you depend on caffeine to get you through the day?
  • Do you feel sleepy when driving ?

These are questions that must be asked before you can find the number that works for you.

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