How Many Hours of Sleep Do We Need?

6 min read

Last Modified 2 September 2021 First Added 21 July 2021

By Shannan Humphrey

We spend one third of our lives asleep, and getting a good night’s sleep is super important. Especially as it affects everything from our brain power and memory to our mood and energy levels. But ask two people how much sleep we actually need and you’ll likely get two different answers. There are those who swear by 6 hours a night while others think 9 hours is about right. And therein lies the answer – there’s no single figure that’s correct for how much sleep we need.

Instead, the amount of sleep we need relates to our genetic makeup, where we live, how much sleep debt we have, our sleep cycle, and plenty of other factors.

That said, a good rule of thumb is that the younger we are, the more sleep we need. Here, we take a look at recommended hours of sleep for each age bracket before exploring other factors that influence how many hours of sleep you should be getting.

How much sleep do I need?

Your age is the biggest determination to how much sleep you should be getting, although there’s no magic number as 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)1
No recommendation (American Academy of Sleep Medicine)2
Infant 4–12 months 12–16 hours per 24 hours (including naps)2
Toddler 1–2 years 11–14 hours per 24 hours (including naps)2
Preschool 3–5 years 10–13 hours per 24 hours (including naps)2
School Age 6–12 years 9–12 hours per 24 hours2
Teen 13–18 years 8–10 hours per 24 hours2
Adult 18–60 years 7 or more hours per night3
61–64 years 7–9 hours1
65 years and older 7–8 hours1

Why is 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 as well as both 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 risk for heart disease and stroke
  • Helps to heal illness and boosts your immune system
  • Lowers risks for chronic health conditions
  • Helps with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety

Other factors that determine how much sleep you need is your overall quality of sleep (specifically how much deep sleep you’re getting) as well as any sleep debt you may have and even pregnancy. If your sleep is interrupted a lot, you may need more hours of sleep as the quality matters more than the quantity. If you’ve been sleep-deprived and have lost a couple of hours each, you’ll likely be suffering from sleep debt and the need to sleep better.

Pregnancy also affects sleep. As a soon-to-be-mum, your body goes through a huge change in hormones and you may need extra hours of sleep to account for this. It also takes a lot of energy to nourish your baby and it can be difficult finding a comfortable sleeping position during pregnancy.

On average, it’s recommended adults get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. But, this isn’t one size fits all. Your body will tell you if you need to start sleeping more. For more information, check out our post Do We Really Need 8 Hours Sleep? or read on for some quick tips.

Signs you’re not getting enough sleep

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 general dull complexion
  • Your immune system may be weak, leading to sickness
  • You’re depressed or anxious and generally in a low mood

How to get more sleep

Getting yourself into a routine and adapting these healthy habits during the day and at night can help you get more sleep. We’ll explore some tips below but for more information check out our post How To Fall Asleep Quickly.

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 times, 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 can’t fall asleep, don’t worry, get out of bed and wind down until you start feeling tired and try again. If you often struggle to get back to sleep, read our article on how to get back to sleep in the middle night. Getting a good night’s sleep is important but remember there’s no magic number. Pay attention to your body, it’ll tell you what you need, but having a sleep routine won’t hurt!

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