Amazingly we spend up to one-third of our lives asleep! We are also absolutely obsessed with the question of how much sleep we actually need on a daily basis.
Getting a good night’s sleep is obviously important to our overall well-being but having said that, how many of us have a sleep debt and have actually forgotten what being truly rested feels like?
Stimulants like coffee and energy drinks, alarm clocks and the light from our phones or iPads totally interfere with our “circadian rhythm” or natural sleep/wake cycle.
For you to determine exactly how much sleep you should be getting on a nightly basis you should first assess where you fall on the “sleep needs spectrum” i.e. how old you are and lifestyle factors.
The National Sleep Foundation released the results of a world-class study that took more than two years of research to complete.
Eighteen leading scientists from the National Sleep Foundation’s expert panel were asked to update 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 reviewed over 300 current scientific publications and voted 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.”
So How Much Sleep Do We Need?
Research cannot totally pinpoint the exact amount of sleep that people need as they age but they can offer minimum and maximum range for wellbeing as well as recommended ranges.
Ultimately it is up to you, assessing how you function throughout the day on a certain number of hours should give you a guideline on which to live by.
Questions to ask are:-
- Are you productive?
- Are you in good health?
- In general, are you happy?
- Do you depend on caffeine to get you through the day?
- Do you often feel sleepy when driving?
- Do you struggle getting to sleep and staying asleep?
Sleep Time Recommendations: What’s Changed?
“The NSF has committed to regularly reviewing and providing scientifically rigorous recommendations,” says Max Hirshkowitz, PhD, Chair of the National Sleep Foundation Scientific Advisory Council. “The public can be confident that these recommendations represent the best guidance for sleep duration and health.”
A new range titled, “may be appropriate,” has been added to acknowledge the individual variability in appropriate sleep durations. The recommendations now define times as either (a) recommended; (b) may be appropriate for some individuals; or (c) not recommended.
The panel revised the recommended sleep ranges for all six children and teen age groups. A summary of the new recommendations are as follows:
• Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
• Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
• Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
• Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
• School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
• Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
• Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
• Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
• Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)
Making A Good Night’s Sleep a Priority
It is important that you find out what works for you. Assessing how you feel and how productive your day is the best indicator of whether you are getting too much, too little or enough.
Here are some great tips to help you get the best Zzzzzz’s ever:-
•Keep to a sleep schedule even on the weekends.
•Try and have a bedtime ritual that leaves you feeling relaxed.
•Exercise on a daily basis.
•Ensure your bedroom is at a temperature that is comfortable for you, some people like it a little cooler at night. Also assess the amount of light and sound.
•Find a mattress, pillows, sheets and a duvet that works for you.
•Try and keep alcohol and caffeine to a minimum in the evenings.
•Keep off your phone, iPad and computer before bed.
If you are concerned about your sleep patterns and think it may be affecting your wellbeing you should consult your primary care physician or a professional sleep consultant. Using the National Sleep Foundation Sleep Diary to track your sleep habits over a one or two week period would be helpful to take with you for the consultation.