How Much Sleep do I Need?

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  • Written By: Aniza Pourtauborde
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2016
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You might be surprised to learn that people spend a third of their lives sleeping. This fact in itself should demonstrate how important sleep is for your general health and well-being. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recommends eight hours of sleep per night to ensure that one wakes up mentally and physically refreshed. However, research has shown that 63% of Americans do not follow this guideline. In fact, 31% report that they slumber for less than seven hours each weeknight.

Despite this, some people feel well-rested after sleeping for just six hours, while others need more sleep to achieve the same state. The sufficient amount of sleeping time required depends in part on one's stage of life:

1. Infancy to pre-adolescence. These are the stages in which a person sleeps the longest hours. The body clock of a newborn infant is not yet fully developed. Hence, a baby either drowses or snoozes for anywhere between 16 to 20 hours during the day and night.

As a child grows older, his or her sleeping hours decrease naturally. At three months to one year old, a child sleeps an average of 14 hours. By the age of three, he or she needs only about 10 to 12 hours in bed. This remains the same until the teenage years.


2. Adolescence. Adolescents require about eight to nine and a half hours of sleep every night. A sufficient amount of snoozing time is critical for one's cerebral and physical development. In fact, studies have shown a strong correlation between lack of sleep and poor grades and athletic ability in school.

3. Adulthood. In this stage, people need between 8 and 8.4 hours of sleep, which can be divided between a night of six to seven hours and a daytime nap of one to two hours. Nonetheless, some people find it difficult to achieve this, especially in the face of pressing work issues that occupy the mind and prevent people from sleeping. Each sleepless night adds up to one's hours of 'sleep debt.' According to NSF's Sleep in America poll, many American adults slumber longer on weekends to make up for their shortfall of sleeping hours during the week.

4. Old age. As mentioned above, the older you get, the fewer hours you must devote to sleeping. Elderly people often take a longer time to fall asleep. When they manage to do so, it is usually for short periods of time. This is because they are lighter sleepers and rouse more easily during the night. These problems result in a significant decrease in total sleeping hours. One way to avoid sleep deprivation at this age is to spend more time resting in bed, such as retiring earlier than usual for the night and lying in later in the mornings.

Sleep is a necessary element in our lives. Without enough rest, our brain's ability to function is seriously affected. Studies of sleep-deprived people reveal that they have shorter attention spans, leading to problems in concentration in school or at work. Furthermore, continued lack of sleep results in slower reaction times and rational decision-making when faced with rapidly changing circumstances. This could be particularly fatal when driving a car or working with machinery.

Even though every stage in life presents a different optimal amount of sleeping hours, how much sleep one needs to feel completely rested and fully functional differs among individuals. Understand what your body is telling you. If you wake up feeling irritable and fatigued, then you are probably not getting enough sleep, and therefore, you should make an effort to rectify this situation immediately.


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Post 3

@ Parmnparsley- What an interesting study. I went and read the study and took the test. I guess I am the unstable night owl type, but maybe it also explains the high GPA I have been getting in my classes. I definitely don't plan on being a night owl forever, but my current circumstances demand it.

I do notice that I am less tolerant of other people when I am put into a group setting for a class. I hate to rely on group members to do their work because I feel like they don't necessarily care and they will end up pulling my grade down. Sleep insomnia has its downsides, but for now, it is helping me make the grades that are putting me through school.

Post 2

I found an interesting study by the London School of Economics that looked into the differences between night owls and early birds. The study concluded that the night owls had a higher IQ because of evolutionary preferences made by people who choose to stay up later. The study definitely did not favor night owls by any means though. Early risers were more likely to be reliable, productive, team players who made better decisions and were more functional.

Basically, the night owl may have gained more intelligence by staying up later, but they are more of a risk taker, more sleep deprived, and less reliable. It just goes to show that there are trade-offs in every decision.

Post 1

It appears that we need just the right amount of sleep to stay healthy. Too much sleep, or too little sleep can create health problems.

People who regularly sleep less than six hours, as well as those who sleep more than 8 hours are more prone to get type 2 diabetes, that is the conclusion of a study conducted at Yale University.

Too little sleep, or too much sleep, interferes with the nervous system and the hormones that regulate blood sugar. So getting about 7 and preferably 8 hours of sleep a night for adults, seems just right.

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