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

How much sleep do you really need?

A national panel of health experts has released new age-specific sleeping recommendations to help improve the sleep health of millions of people around the country.

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) complied a group of 18 experts in fields like sleep, anatomy, physiology, pediatrics, neurology, gerontology and more to comb through over 300 scientific publications to reach a set of recommendations for all age groups.

“This is the first time that any professional organization has developed age-specific recommended sleep durations based on a rigorous, systematic review of the world scientific literature relating sleep duration to health, performance and safety,” Dr. Charles A. Czeisler, chairman of the board at the NSF, chief of sleep and circadian disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Baldino Professor of Sleep Medicine at the Harvard Medical School, said in an NSF press release. “The National Sleep Foundation is providing these scientifically grounded guidelines on the amount of sleep we need each night to improve the sleep health of the millions of individuals and parents who rely on us for this information.”

The results

The new sleep advice was published in the journal Sleep Health. Most of the pediatric categories widened their recommendations of sleep time. The panel also added two new age categories for young adults ages 18-25 and adults older than 65.

  • 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)

Why is sleep so important?

Insufficient sleep and the associated health care costs and lost productivity costs an annual $66 billion, according to sleep.org. Drowsy drivers cause over 100,000 traffic accidents and 1,500 deaths a year. Sleep deprivation can also increase your risk for stroke and diabetes, damage your bones and lead to obesity.

If you’re constantly skipping on sleep to meet deadlines for work or school or staying up all night, you’ll rack up sleep debt quickly and your body will need to catch up on that lost sleep. Sleep.org recommends taking a nap or going to bed earlier, but to also get into the habit of having a good night’s rest.

“But if you’re under-sleeping by, say, an hour every night, Monday through Friday, you’ll end up with a whopping five hours of sleep debt by the time Saturday rolls around,” sleep.org states.

Instead of snoozing away your weekends, you can also try catching up on sleep by going to bed 15 minutes earlier than normal and setting a sleep schedule.

How to make sleep a priority

Sleep times will vary for individuals, but the NSF says it’s important to figure out the amount of sleep you need to function well each day because sleep is as important as a good diet and exercise.

The NSF offers these tips to get a good night’s sleep:

  • Stick to a sleep schedule, even on weekends.
  • Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual.
  • Exercise daily.
  • Evaluate your bedroom to ensure ideal temperature, sound and light.
  • Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  • Beware of hidden sleep stealers, like alcohol and caffeine.
  • Turn off electronics before bed.

The most important thing you can do is schedule your sleep time, the NSF says. Put it on your to-do list and set a timer to stop what you’re doing to make sure you’re in bed by the same time every night.