How many hours of sleep do we need?

We all know that sleep is an essential life function. Optimal sleep is not only accompanied by a slew of benefits for your physical, mental, and emotional state, but gives your body and mind the time it needs to recharge, leaving you feeling refreshed and alert when you wake up.

But how many hours of sleep do we need? How much sleep is regarded as not enough sleep? Is there a set amount of sleep we should all be getting to function at our peak? These are just a few frequently asked questions surrounding the topic of sleep.

How many hours of sleep do we need

While many assume the answers to these questions to be simple, without much explanation required, it’s not. In fact, topics such as sleep hygiene, sleep schedule and the required / recommended amount of sleep needed for optimal functioning is far more multifaceted and complex than we think.

From a research perspective, The National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations for healthy people without sleep disorders are as follows:

Age GroupAge RangeRecommended Amount of Sleep per Day
Newborn0-3 months14-17 hours
Infant4-11 months12-15 hours
Toddler1-2 years11-14 hours
Preschool3-5 years10-13 hours
School-age6-13 years9-11 hours
Teen14-17 years8-10 hours
Young Adult18-25 years7-9 hours
Adult26-64 years7-9 hours
Older Adult65 years or older7-8 hours

From the above guidelines 7 – 9 hours of sleep per night is required for most adults to function optimally.

So, the question is, if you are not getting the ‘recommended’ 7 -9 hours of sleep per night as outlined by The National Sleep Foundation, does that mean you are simply not getting enough sleep and can therefore not function at your best?

While it may surprise some, the answer is no, not necessarily.

Although the National Sleep Foundation’s recommended sleep guidelines do take age into account, it fails to consider the fact that no one person is the same. We are all individual, and we are all different. This means that what works for one person, does not necessarily work for another – the same applies to sleep.

While these guidelines may serve as a general broad-spectrum rule-of-thumb for how much sleep we ‘require’ to function, or how much sleep is considered enough/ideal, the amount of sleep each individual person needs to function optimally and perform at their best can vary significantly as well as be based on and/or influenced by a variety of factors.

Simply put, the amount of sleep you need to function at your best can vary greatly from what is regarded as the stereotypical norm. While some people function at their most optimal when they get a consistent 8 hours of sleep every night, others perform at their peak, physically, mentally, and emotionally, with a good 4 – 5 hours of sleep.

Regardless of what category you fall into, what is most important is that the sleep you do get is sufficient enough for you to not only function efficiently, but feel fully rested, refreshed, and recharged. With that being said, it is important to remember that getting a good night’s sleep isn’t just about how many hours of sleep you get, but also about the quality of your sleep.

A simple way to gauge whether or not you are getting the quantity and quality of sleep you need to function at your best is to ask yourself how alert, awake, and active you feel at 10am – 11am in the morning? If you feel exhausted, foggy, and depleted on all levels, it might be time to take a step back, re-assess, and make some changes to either the quantity or quality of your sleep. That said, listen to your body, which has its own natural cycle. Oversleeping just to meet a criteria isn’t beneficial to you or your circadian rhythm and could leave you feeling even more fatigued.

While it may require some trial and error as well as extra effort and time to get it right, once you do, you’ll be beyond happy that you made this vital investment into your sleep and overall sleep hygiene – You’ll be thriving and firing on all cylinders that’s for sure!

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