How Many Hours of Sleep Do I Need?

9 Min Read | By Shannan Humphrey

Last Modified 1 May 2024   First Added 21 July 2021

This article was written and reviewed in line with our editorial policy.
Sammy Margo

“The key is to find out what works for you.”

Getting a good night’s sleep is super important – It affects everything from our brain power and memory to our mood and energy levels. But ask two people how much sleep we need, and you’ll likely get two different answers. Some swear by 6 hours a night, while others think 9 hours is about right. If you find yourself wondering “how much do I actually need?” , well, the truth is that there’s no single figure that’s correct for everybody.

In our UK Sleep Survey, we found people, on average, spend 5 hours 55 minutes in bed actually sleeping, a 6% increase since 2016…

  • 18% spend between 0 to 4 hours asleep
  • 43% spend between 5 to 6 hours asleep
  • 36% spend 7 to 8 hours asleep
  • And only 3% spend 9 hours or more snoozing

So, let’s take a deeper look into how many hours we should spend sleeping, what can affect it, and how to figure out what’s right for us.

How many hours of sleep do adults need?

Simply put, most doctors and sleep experts recommend between 7-9 hours of sleep per night for adults. This seems to be the sweet spot for the majority of people to feel refreshed and get the benefits that sleep provides us. There is a huge amount of research into sleep, and studies have shown that consistently sleeping too little (less than 6-7 hours) or too much (9 or more hours) are both linked to an elevated risk of cardiovascular issues, weight management issues, diabetes, and depression.

However, it’s not that simple. As we mentioned before, the amount of sleep you personally need may be outside of this number, and we’ll discuss figuring out your routine further.

Is 8 hours of sleep a myth?

Technically, yes! It is a myth that everyone needs 8 hours of sleep a night. You can probably guess what we’ll say next—sleep is completely individual. While most people will feel good on around 8 hours of sleep, this is only an estimate of what will actually be best for them. Every night of sleep is different; depending on emotional and physical health, everyone will experience fluctuations in the time they need.

 

Recommended amount of sleep by age

Your age is the most significant factor determining how much sleep you need, although there’s no magic number as – that’s right – everyone is different. The key factor for understanding how much sleep you need is to listen to your body.

If you find yourself groggy each morning, you may need to alter how many hours you get each night. That said, a good first step is using recommended hours as a starting point. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, these are the recommended hours of sleep by age group:

Age Group Recommended Hours of Sleep Per Day
Newborn 0–3 months 14–17 hours (National Sleep Foundation)
No recommendation (American Academy of Sleep Medicine)2
Infant 4–12 months 12–16 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
Toddler 1–2 years 11–14 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
Preschool 3–5 years 10–13 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
School Age 6–12 years 9–12 hours per 24 hours
Teen 13–18 years 8–10 hours per 24 hours
Adult 18–60 years 7 or more hours per night
61–64 years 7–9 hours
65 years and older 7–8 hours

The recommended amount of sleep we need relates to our age and also our genetic makeup, where we live, how much sleep debt we have, our sleep cycle, and plenty of other factors, including how active we are in the daytime.

That said, a good rule of thumb is that the younger we are, the more sleep we need. Young toddlers aged 1-2 years need 11-14 hours of sleep, while the recommended amount of sleep for adults aged 18-60 years is 7 hours or more. This is because toddlers are still in the process of growing, and sleep is vital to support growth and brain development.

Why is getting enough sleep important?

Sleeping may seem like your time to relax, rest, and dream; however, sleep has more impact on your health and lifestyle than you might think. Your quality of sleep is directly linked to and affects how you feel during the day and your physical and mental health. Here are several reasons why a good night’s sleep is important:

  • It regulates the hormones that control your appetite, metabolism, growth, and healing
  • Boosts productivity, concentration, focus and creativity
  • Improves reaction time, speed, and athletic performance
  • Regulates and aids with weight management
  • Promotes a healthy heart by reducing the risk for heart disease and stroke
  • Helps to heal illness and boosts your immune system
  • Lowers risks for chronic health conditions
  • It can help with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety

How much is enough sleep?

Again, the amount of sleep you need for good health and function will differ from person to person, but it’s all about how you feel during your day-to-day. Scientists have actually identified 2 genes which allow some people to feel well-rested with short sleep (6 hours or less) and not get the usual negative side effects of sleep deprivation. For most of us though, lack of sleep can lead to emotional dysregulation, trouble dealing with stress, memory issues, and general brain fog, which makes everything a bit harder. If you are feeling energised and ready to tackle your day, then you’re getting enough.

Do you relate? Find out more about short sleeper syndrome.

What is sleep deprivation and what are the signs?

If you regularly don’t get enough sleep, you could end up suffering from sleep deprivation. If so, it’s likely your body will send signals that you need to increase your hours. These symptoms include:

  • Falling asleep or being drowsy during the day
  • Being irritable and moody
  • Lack of motivation and not as productive
  • Struggle to focus and might have trouble remembering
  • Decision-making and judgement are harder
  • You may be more hungry than usual, causing weight gain
  • Physical changes appear, such as dark circles under the eye or a generally dull complexion
  • Your immune system may be weak, leading to sickness
  • You’re depressed or anxious and generally in a low mood

Can you really get into "sleep debt"?

If your sleep is interrupted a lot, you may need more hours of sleep to compensate for the lack of quality sleep you’re receiving, which is referred to as “sleep debt”. It means that there’s a discrepancy between how much sleep you need and how much you’re actually getting, which can lead to lethargy, poor mental functions, and low mood. Unfortunately, it’s fairly easy to accumulate sleep debt, even missing an hour every day can add up to an entire night’s worth of sleep lost. According to research into sleep debt, it can take up to 4 days to recover for every 1 hour of sleep debt!

Can you make up for a bad night's sleep?

If you spent the night tossing and turning or stayed up too late doom-scrolling, then you may feel exhausted when your alarm goes off. Of course, you can use caffeine, power foods, and even a nap to shake the grogginess, but it won’t make up for the lost time. Thankfully, you can recover from sleep debt with some good habits. Consistency is key when it comes to getting decent slumber, so if you do have a few bad nights, it’s important to get back to a healthy routine as soon as possible.

Should you sleep during the day?

If you’ve ever enviously watched your pet snooze all day and wondered if you should have a quick kip too, then we’re here to tell you that napping can have some great benefits. While humans have evolved to sleep more efficiently and so, don’t require as much sleep as other animals, sometimes a nap is just what you need. Take a look at our guide to napping to find out more about the benefits, the ideal length, and when is best to get your shut-eye into your schedule.

If you consistently feel so sleepy during the day that you can’t focus or stay awake, you’re probably lacking in restful sleep the night before. Try to fix your nighttime routine, and don’t let yourself nap in the late afternoon or evening, as this can disrupt your sleep patterns.

Figuring out how much sleep you need

The amount of sleep you need is related to getting the right number of sleep cycles during the night. As we sleep, we go through 4 phases: initial, light, deep, and REM, which all do different things and are vital for a restful night. It takes roughly 90 minutes to go through each cycle, and it’s recommended to get 5-6 each night, so take a look at our sleep cycle calculator to find out your ideal bedtime.

Curious about sleep phases? Get to know your brain

Tips for getting more sleep

Getting yourself into a routine and adopting these healthy habits during the day and at night can help you get more sleep. We’ll explore some tips below:

During the day:

  • Exercising can be a good way to tire your body out, but make sure you work out a few hours before bed to give your body time to wind down, or it might lead to trouble shutting off.
  • Increasing your exposure to sunlight during the day can help maintain your body’s natural circadian rhythm, helping you feel tired as the day comes to an end.
  • If you decide to take a nap, do so in the earlier part of the day. Taking a nap in the late afternoon can throw off your sleep cycle, and you’ll feel wide awake when it comes to going to sleep later.
  • Try to establish a sleep schedule and routine; wake up and go to sleep at the same time as this helps your body clock.

Before bed:

  • Try to limit or avoid alcohol, caffeine, and sugary foods; these can interrupt your sleep.
  • Switch off electronics at least 30 minutes before going to bed. The blue light from devices can stimulate your brain and make it harder to fall asleep.
  • Set some time aside to relax and wind down before bed, whether this is meditation, taking a bath, or listening to music.
  • Shortly before sleeping, keep your room cool and dark; this helps you fall asleep easier.
If you struggle to get enough sleep or don’t feel rested, there are plenty of reasons and remedies. In fact, this is what this whole blog is about! We want to help you understand your body and sleep better at night. Browse our articles below on some of the most common sleep problems that might keep you awake and some solutions.
Remember, if you struggle with chronic under or oversleeping, then it’s important to contact your GP to see if there is a more serious underlying cause. 

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