The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) has been conducting extensive studies (2 whole years!) on the recommended sleep hours a person needs depending on their age. They conducted a sleep study that took into mind these factors: a person’s age, their sleep habits, sleep duration, sleep schedule and sleep pattern and compared them to how they felt, how they did throughout the day, and how their bodies’ overall health held up on that amount of hours of sleep per night.
The study concluded the perfect amount of sleep needed for people of every age; and due to further continued research, they have since updated their information. The variance between original conclusions and further revised conclusions was not much, but how much sleep a person gets matters greatly.
The variance of each individual’s sleep recommendations should be followed strictly since we should all get the amount of sleep we need no matter what. But what happens when we don’t get enough sleep? Our bodies begin to build up what is called sleep debt which can be hard to “pay back” or regain, later on, thus causing the person to be more and more sleep deprived as time goes on.
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
According to the National Sleep Foundation’s chart of sleep hours needed depending on your age, these are how much sleep at night a person needs:
- 0 – 3 months: 14 to 17 hours of sleep per 24 hours
- 4 – 11 months: 12 to 15 hours of sleep per 24 hours
- 1 – 2 years: 11 to 14 hours of sleep per 24 hours
- 3 – 5 years: 10 to 13 hours of sleep per 24 hours
- 6 – 13 years: 9 to 11 hours of sleep per 24 hours
- 14 – 17 years: 8 to 10 hours of sleep per 24 hours
- 18 – 64 years: 7 to 9 hours of sleep per 24 hours
- Over 65 years: 7 to 8 hours of sleep per 24 hours
As you can see in this chart the number of sleep hours that a person needs decreases slowly as a person ages. The reason for that has been disputed over the years, and various conclusions have been established. The most popular of these is that babies need much more sleep than adults over the age of 65 because babies are still completing much of their growing and developing. Adults need less sleep than babies because they have already gone through the developing and growing processes and need not spend so much time of their day or night working on those two tasks.
Regardless of the reason, we still know that sleeping the correct amount of hours a night greatly improves our waking lives and that without the sleep we need we cannot function at full potential, or as some say “run on all four cylinders”.
How to Improve Your Sleep If You Are Having Sleep Problems
Despite having to sleep a specific amount of hours, many people in the United States experience sleep problems, or even sleep disorders. This is such a common thing, in fact, that the National Sleep Foundation is calling it an epidemic across the world. Due to this, people are not getting enough sleep at night, and are therefore building up an increasing amount of sleep debt during the week.
Sleep debt occurs when a person misses any amount of sleep during the night. So, for example, if you are supposed to sleep from 7-9 hours a night and you only get 5 or 6, your sleep debt is equal to 2-3 hours. Then, say, the next night you only get 5 hours of sleep again; your sleep debt is now all the way up to 6 or 7 hours. That’s only 2 nights without the proper sleep, and you already have a sleep debt equal to almost a whole night’s sleep.
When a person has a sleep debt like this, they are experiencing a form of sleep deprivation. The effects of sleep deprivation can cause trouble concentrating, fatigue, biological clock (circadian rhythm) interruption, and emotional instability; and in severe cases can cause hallucinations, increased risk of heart failure or cardiovascular diseases, increased risk of stroke, and other serious problems (please see our blog “How Lack of Sleep Affects The Heart”).
To begin to repair your sleep debt and have an easier time when trying to fall asleep we recommend trying to do exercise every day, staying hydrated, avoiding caffeine and sugar, avoiding alcoholic beverages, eating healthy meals and not too much before going to bed, reading a book before bed instead of being on your electronics, practicing relaxing meditation or breathing exercises, and putting aside all worries and anxieties for the night.