How Much is the Right Amount of Sleep?

Sleeping well is critical to our happiness. From ensuring we wake up feeling emotionally prepared for the day, to reducing the risk of developing adverse physical conditions, quality rest is essential.

However, many of us do not get the sleep we need to be healthy. Here, we’ll explore how much we should be sleeping and why it’s important.

Impact of poor sleep

Sleep comes easily to some, but can be tough for many of us. This is why many people spend hours reading sleep-related articles or browse mattress reviews hoping to solve their sleep issues.

Adequate rest is critical to healthy development in children and general wellbeing in adults. Healthy sleep includes duration, quality, timing (when you drift off and wake up), and the lack of sleep disorders. People who don’t get enough sleep run the risk of developing daytime tiredness, low mood, poor functioning, lower concentration levels, and reduced ability to handle emotional issues.

According to a Nature and Science of Sleep report, poor sleep has become an issue around the world and is associated with Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and depression. Studies have also found a link between poor sleep and weight gain with inadequate slumber disrupting hunger signals, which can cause us to eat more than necessary.

Considering insufficient sleep can also lead to a weaker immune system, it’s important to sleep well.

What about how sleep affects our state of mind? Quality sleep reportedly supports our emotional stability and not enough can cause low mood and insecurity. During adequate sleep, our brains clear themselves of toxins that build up during the day, which assists our learning, memory and emotional resilience. Regularly disrupted sleep harms the body’s level of stress hormones, which can also impair how we deal with emotions.

Optimum sleep duration

How much do experts believe we should sleep? According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep is an essential sign of good health and the organization recommends the below sleeping times:

  • 0-3 months: 14-17 hours a day.

  • 4-11 months:  12-15 hours a day.

  • 1-2 years:  11-14 hours a day.

  • 3-5 years:  10-13 hours a day.

  • 6-13 years:  9-11 hours a day.

  • 14-17 years: 8-10 hours a day.

  • 18-25 years:  7-9 hours a day.

  • 26-64 years:  7-9 hours a day.

  • 65+ years: 7-8 hours a day.

Children differ from adults regarding sleep, with the most palpable difference being the longer amount of time they should—and do sleep. For example, newborns sleep for about 70% of the day. However, these sleep cycles are shorter than an adult’s, averaging at around 40 minutes compared to 90 minutes for grown-ups.

During pre-school years, naps typically reduce and children start sleeping once at night as they mature. This also includes a reduction of the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep period, which is the deepest stage of sleep. During late childhood, the percentage of non-REM sleep is at its peak, with sleep continuing to change to match that of an adult.

Once the child hits adolescence, sleep is very similar to a typical, healthy adult. However, puberty has been found to cause later sleep start and wake times, and the teenage lifestyle can mean a sleep ‘debt’ builds during the week, which many teens compensate for by sleeping in on weekends. Unfortunately, this is not only ineffective but also unhealthy and can cause circadian disruption. Since circadian rhythms are critical to the proper functioning of cells, tissues, organs, and behavior, any disruption can harm health. 

From the age of about 18 years, people should be getting between seven and nine hours of rest every night. While it isn’t only optimum sleep duration that is important to a healthy, happy life, it’s a major contributor.

Sleep quality

Sleep quality is just as critical to good health as sleep duration. If you still feel tired after a full night’s sleep, your body might not be spending enough time in the various sleep stages.

Each stage of sleep offers benefits. However, deep sleep (when the body repairs itself and accumulates energy for the next day) along with mind and mood-enhancing REM sleep is especially important. While simply improving how long you sleep at night, in general, will boost the time spent in the REM sleep cycle, you can also try sleeping for an extra half an hour in the morning. This is when REM sleep stages are longest and it could help you feel more refreshed.

Sleeping for too long

Have you also considered that sleeping too much can be harmful? Studies have discovered a link between sleeping more than nine hours a night and conditions such as strokes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and weight gain. Although it has not been definitively proven that sleeping too much causes illnesses, it is believed to at least be an indicator of poor health.

Ideally, you should aim for the above sleep times every night, as chronic sleep deprivation can have adverse effects on your general wellbeing that you might not have considered.