How Many Hours of Sleep Do I Need?

Older Man Sleeping at His Desk

Like all animals, humans need sleep to survive. Although individual sleep requirements vary, the average adult should get between 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep per day. Since sleep needs differ by overall health, age and lifestyle, some individuals do well on 6 hours of sleep while others may require 9 hours. That said, it is important to determine where you fall on the sleep spectrum. To do so, you must take an honest look at all of the factors that could impact your time between the sheets. This will help you prioritize your day and evening hours to ensure you feel truly rested when you wake up.

Categories and Levels of Sleep

Two categories are used to discuss sleep: REM (rapid eye movement) when we're dreaming and non-REM sleep which is much deeper and more restorative. Your ability to reach deeper levels of non-REM sleep definitely depends upon your age. Recent studies suggest that within an age group the amount needed will depend upon your overall health. If you have ever seen a parent toting a sleeping child, you may have marveled at how the limp kid stayed asleep through the whole event. The reason why has to do with the child's ability to maintain slow-wave deep sleep, which is the most restorative level of non-REM sleep. Unfortunately, the ability to attain such levels usually changes before young adulthood.

Problems Sleeping

Problems sleeping often are directly linked to living a more modern lifestyle. After all, most of us live very frantic lives filled with multiple cups of coffee, busy workdays, energy drinks, pressing social engagements and plenty of electronic devices to disrupt the rhythm our circadian clocks. Ironically, as we get older and have plenty of time to sleep, staying between the sheets becomes more challenging. An aching back, prostate problems, a bad hip, medications, sleep apnea, a heart condition, restless leg syndrome, menopause or a stiff neck can make it much more difficult to stay asleep for prolonged periods. So, the quantity of sleep you need is directly related to the quality of sleep you get.

Getting the right amount of quality sleep is an important component of restoring your health; but despite the erroneous notion that sleep needs decrease with age, older people still need the same 7.5 to 8 hours of daily sleep. Since older adults often have trouble sleeping through the night, short naps during the day are a good way to ensure they get the rest they need. For a revised listing by age, check out the Recommended Sleep Chart posted by the American Sleep Foundation.


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