Sleep is more than a sweet escape or rare reward to enjoy when you’re lucky. Sufficient sleep is vital to nearly every facet of overall health.
While sleep still remains a relatively mysterious phenomenon, we do know it’s essential for letting the brain and body reset and recharge.
While you sleep, you’re storing and wiping information, encoding memories, regenerating cells, and regulating complex systems, like your metabolism and immune system. Needless to say, you need sleep—and probably more of it than you already get.
In order to experience optimal sleep benefits, you need to get the right amount of sleep—every night. How much sleep you need naturally depends on several individual factors, including your age, health, and even DNA. However, The National Sleep Foundation does provide updated recommended sleep duration guidelines by age, based on scientific research conducted over two years by 18 different sleep experts. And it’s here for you next time you’re wondering, how much sleep do I need?
The sleep rumors are true: The average adult, between 18 and 64 years old, should get seven to nine hours of sleep every night. This number of hours allows your brain and body to get as much REM sleep and deep sleep as they need (you need multiple cycles of both types of sleep for an adequate nightly slumber). On the other hand, newborns and infants need the most sleep to optimize postnatal development: 14 to 17 hours, and 12 to 15 hours, respectively. There’s also scientific validation for teenagers’ notorious sleep habits: 14- to 17-year-olds need a solid 8 to 10 hours (so let them sleep!). And starting around age 65, older adults only require seven to eight hours, not quite as much as they may need in early and middle adulthood.
Some adults find seven hours to be a perfectly sufficient amount of sleep, while others need closer to nine (maybe even 10) hours to feel fully rested. And remember, while some people may pride themselves on being able to function on five or six hours of sleep, the truth is, they’re likely severely sleep deprived without realizing it. The effects of insufficient sleep can be immediate, but they can also accumulate gradually and manifest in myriad health problems.
In his book Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, Matthew Walker, PhD, a professor and director of UC Berkeley’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab, describes scientific research that concludes sleeping for only six hours a night for 10 days can make you as impaired as someone who has been awake for 24 consecutive hours. One recent sleep study finds that losing just 16 minutes of sleep can be detrimental to alertness and concentration—so imagine what regularly losing hours of sleep could do.
Here’s a full breakdown of how much sleep you need at every age, straight from The National Sleep Foundation’s research. When in doubt, adults should aim for seven to nine hours to stay as happy and healthy as possible. But speak to your doctor or a sleep specialist if you’re worried about chronic sleep deprivation or other sleep disorders keep you from getting the rest you need and deserve.
- Newborns (0 to 3 months): 4 to 17 hours each day
- Infants (4 to 11 months): 12 to 15 hours
- Toddlers (1 to 2 years): 11 to 14 hours
- Preschoolers (3 to 5): 10 to 13 hours
- School age children (6 to 13): 9 to 11 hours
- Teenagers (14 to 17): 8 to 10 hours
- Younger adults (18 to 25): 7 to 9 hours
- Adults (26 to 64): 7 to 9 hours
- Older adults (65 and older): 7 to 8 hours