It’s probably the most common question asked about sleep – “How Much Sleep Should I Get a Night?”
However, I would guess that the question is typically asked by people who are either at one extreme end of the spectrum or the other, i.e. feeling as though they’re not getting enough sleep or spending far too long in bed.
With that being said, the main reason people want a definitive answer as to how many hours they should be sleeping is typically due to feeling as though their nightly slumber is having an impact (often negative) on their normal daily routines.
Look, we all feel tired every once in a while and there can be a variety of reasons that you didn’t get a great night’s sleep. But, if this becomes a regular occurrence then it’s a problem that you should deal with sooner rather than later.
How Many Hours of Sleep is Recommended?
The number of hours of sleep you require will depend on various factors. In fact, as individuals this can vary significantly. One of the main factors to consider however is age.
There are general guidelines issued for the recommended number of hours of sleep required depending on age group.
It should come as no surprise that newborn babies require more sleep than anyone else. It is recommended that they should be sleeping anywhere from 14 hours to 17 hours a day.
As a child gets a little older the sleep they require may be slightly less and can be split up throughout the day. Up to the age of 12 months your child should be sleeping for approximately 10 hours at night. In addition, 4 hours of naps should be taken during the day.
Up to 2 years old, an 11-12 hour nighttime sleep and a nap in the afternoon that lasts between 1-2 hours.
Approximately 10-13 hours sleep
9-11 hours of sleep is recommended.
As adults, it recommended that we should be sleeping anywhere between 7-9 hours a day.
Other Factors To Be Aware Of
There are numerous other factors that may affect the number of hours sleep you require:
Expectant mothers will go through a number of changes to their body during early pregnancy and will require more sleep.
As we get older you will typically find that your sleeping patterns tend to change. In fact, it is recommended that an older adult should aim to get as much sleep as younger adults do. With that said, as we age we tend to sleep more lightly and for a shorter span of time.
If you are someone who is sleep deprived then you will need to increase the hours of sleep you are getting, although the single biggest factor to how refreshed you feel the following day is the quality of sleep you are getting.
I know people who seem to get by on 5-6 hours sleep a night and feel alert, refreshed and raring to go the next day. Whereas, there are others who spend 9-10 hours every night in bed and can barely function the day after.
I have even written an article which focuses on some ridiculously low levels of sleep, including many geniuses, celebrities, and world-renowned politicians. You can check it out here.
Is it OK to Get 5 Hours of Sleep a Night?
I’m not sure why, but one of the most frequently asked questions about sleep is whether it is okay to get 5 hours of sleep a night.
Obviously, there are a lot of people out there who are surviving (or perhaps barely surviving) on this low number of hours of sleep.
This may not initially cause any issues, but in the long-term only getting 5 hours of sleep a night can have some very serious effects on both your physical and mental wellbeing.
A study conducted in 2018 on a global sample of just over 10,000 people provided some very interesting results.
It was deemed that sleeping for less (or more) than 7-8 hours a night (which accounted for just over half of the study’s participants) seriously impacted cognitive performance.
The participants were measured via 12 separate tests and it was found that their verbal and reasoning skills, as well as their overall thinking ability was not at full capacity.
Some test subjects who slept for an average of 4 hours a night found that their overall cognition was the equivalent to aging by 8 years.
However, after sleeping for more hours the night before testing, closer to the recommended 7-8 hours, cognitive performance improved significantly.
In truth, sleeping for only 5 hours a night may not have a huge impact on your life if it’s just the odd-day here and there, but the longer-term effects can be quite alarming.
Are You Getting Enough Sleep?
So, if we had to put an exact number on it, we can see that the recommended 7-9 hours a night is what we should all be aiming for (as adults).
However, as I’ve mentioned this isn’t always the case, and there are many of us who seem to be able to function perfectly normally with less sleep.
This is an individual thing.
Nevertheless, it should start becoming obvious to you sooner or later whether you are getting enough sleep for YOU.
If you aren’t waking up feeling refreshed then you need to consider the quality of your sleep isn’t great and then work out what is affecting this.
If you find you are unable to perform well the following day, especially in terms of concentration levels, communication with others, decision-making and planning, then your cognitive abilities are taking a hit.
You may find that your energy levels are down and you are unable to perform certain tasks with the ease that you usually do.
All of these factors point to the fact that you probably aren’t getting enough sleep.
Now I don’t believe making massive sweeping changes is the answer.
If you’re used to only sleeping 6 hours a night and you suddenly decide to go to bed 2 hours earlier than you normally do, it is more than likely that you are going to lay awake, tossing and turning, for those couple of hours, if not more.
The exact same can be said if you’re trying to stay in bed and get up later in the morning.
I would suggest making small incremental changes at first, something that is hardly noticeable, such as 15-20 minutes here and there.
You can gradually increase your levels of sleep over a period of weeks and months, until you find you’ve hit the sweet spot.
I have also spoken many times about good sleep hygiene habits and ways to improve the quality of your sleep. These typically involve things that you are doing during the day while you are awake.
Sleep is far more important than many of us credit it with and therefore finding the ideal number of hours you should be sleeping is of paramount importance.
As I say, this is very much an individual thing, but if the experts recommend a certain number of hours of sleep, then that is what you should be aiming for.
You are now aware of the recommended number of hours you should be sleeping, based on age group, although there are many other factors to take into consideration.
However, a lack of good, quality sleep will start to affect you both physically and mentally.
If you feel constantly tired or unable to perform as your best self the following day you are probably not getting enough sleep.
But, it’s important not to make huge changes to your sleeping schedule and work in small increments to increase the amount of time you spend in bed.
It’s all well-and-good quoting the recommended hours of sleep an individual requires, but only you will know whether you’re realistically getting enough sleep.