You know the feeling. It’s 7 am, that dreaded sound of your alarm clock fills the room, and you poke the snooze button for the third time in a row.
You are hoping that the extra ten minutes in bed will somehow make you feel incredible when you finally wake up.
Shame, it won’t. Because you do the same routine every morning and you still feel terrible.
If you know it won’t make you feel any better, what’s the point in sleeping more?
Because you’re tired, duh.
Every adult is different when it comes to sleep. Some people can survive on 4-hours, while others need 10-hours +.
The critical factor is understanding how much sleep YOU need. Not the average person. Once you do that, you’ll be able to fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer and wake up feeling energized.
Ready to uncover just how much sleep you need?
Let’s do this.
The Biology of Sleep: Why Is It Important?
Without it, you’re dead.
Just like water, it’s vital for us humans to sleep, every day without fail. Sure you can work a few late nights in the office or party into the early hours. But what you can’t do is not sleep.
We need it to function at our very best, both physically and mentally. If you don’t get enough, there are several serious risks associated with sleep deprivation:
Are you convinced that sleep is important now?
It’s both intriguing and terrifying to think that so much can happen to your body and brain just from not getting the right amount of restful sleep.
5 Signs you are Not Getting Enough Sleep
Some sleep deprivation signs are obvious, and others not so much. Here are the most common red flags you need to be aware of. These warning signs are telling you that your sleeping behaviors need a drastic change.
Quality Sleep Matters MORE Than Hours Slept
Thre are so many mental and physical health benefits to sleeping that it’s almost unbelievable. Various medical professionals agree that sleep is essential to vitality. But what they fail to communicate to us regular mortals, is that quality of sleep is far more critical than quantity.
When you start to focus on quality over a recommended “one size fits all” hours approach, that’s when radical shifts in mental clarity and physical stamina begin to happen.
Take this biological clock study, for example. It states that three pre-industrial societies from Tanzania, Bolivia, and Namibia all survived on 5-7 hours of sleep, dozing off after the sun had set and waking at sunrise.
Huh, that would suggest circadian rhythm sleep is more important than hours in bed then. So why is 8-hours the minimum amount of sleep advised?
Another study on over 1.1 million people shows that sleeping longer than 6.5 hours per night is not only a waste of time but could be detrimental to your health. The study by Dr Daniel F. Kripke states that they didn’t find any empirical evidence relating to health that supports sleeping 8 hours.
If that didn’t surprise you, then this will.
Just one night of good uninterrupted sleep can improve your ability to learn new motor skills by 20%.
Not impressed? How about this.
Better quality sleep can help you to gain insight into complex problems by as much as 50%.
If you’re still shaking your head and saying “No, no, no… I need my 8 hours” then you’re not alone. This myth has been promoted for many years. But as the saying goes; “If you believe it, then it’s true”.
Seriously though, you need to question your beliefs when you start seeing studies like this that say 5 hours of sleep is “slightly safer” than 8 hours for preventing cancer.
Thre are more and more studies proving that the longer you sleep, the worse it is for you (in most cases), so now that I have your attention let’s move on.
Why Don’t you Get Enough Sleep?
If you’re not getting enough shuteye, there’s usually a reason why. Before you can understand how much you need to live an optimal life, you first need to know what the root cause is behind a lack of or bad quality sleep.
Here are the most common reasons why most people don’t get enough:
That’s why you don’t get enough. Now let’s fix it.
How to Sleep Better in 9 Simple Steps
Getting a quality nights sleep is quite easy. Use the steps below, one per week and write down in a sleep diary (more on that later).
Pro tip: Taking one step per week will give yourself enough time to test what works for you. Doing them all at once will overwhelm you, giving a sense of frustration and leading you back to the bad habits you have now.
How Much Sleep do I Need for my Age?
Sleep is subjective and different for everyone. It’s essential to find a schedule that works best for you, but using the recommended duration times (advised by the Sleep Health Journal) below are a good starting point.
Newborns (0-3 months)
A newborn baby’s sleep schedule is essential to their health. They are in the process of setting a circadian rhythm and will be polyphasic, sleeping multiple times throughout the day. Usually in 2-4 hour slots. At the one year mark, a natural sleep pattern will begin to immerge, and they will get used to going to bed at nighttime when it’s dark.
Infants (4-11 months)
As they approach the 4-month mark, their circadian rhythm is still being established, even though hours needed are slightly less. Babies always move and vocalize during REM sleep for the first year of their lives. Unlike older children and adults who experience sleep paralysis during REM, babies spend a lot more time in the fourth cycle.
Toddlers (1-2 years)
Around the age of 1-2 years, toddlers are entering the biphasic sleeping phase, so are more likely to sleep a couple of times in 24 hours. Once in the evening and once during the afternoon.
A solid sleep pattern should now be established at night, and they will know when it’s time to go to bed.
Children at this age will generally resist going to bed because they are too busy playing. Even though they feel tired, they won’t give in, which is why a routine is so important.
If they are attending pre-school, they will be napping in the early afternoon, usually after lunch for two or so hours.
School-age children (6-13)
Napping at this age is uncommon, but not unusual. Sleep problems or disorders may have started to develop too, such sleep apnea, sleepwalking, parasomnia symptoms and restless legs syndrome.
They should be well adjusted to a natural routine of sleeping once per day from night until morning.
Teenagers are notorious for being lazy and moody. Their hormones are developing due to fluctuations in testosterone, estrogen and progesterone. So this will have a significant effect on their energy levels, causing them to go to bed and wake up later than adults.
During puberty, sleep patterns change rather dramatically, and studies are linking adolescent sleep to maturing brain behavior. As a result, teenagers are sleep deprived as a result of society telling them to go to school at a specific time. This makes them more depressed and tired during school hours, making it harder to study.
15-year-olds, in particular, have shown the most significant drop in total sleep. One study shows a massive 40% of teens not getting the suggested 8-10 hours per night.
Young-Middle Aged adults
Both young (18-25) and middle-aged (26-64) adults need around 7-9 hours of sleep. Although as mentioned above, studies are now confirming that adults need less bedtime than we think, so 5-7 hours could be enough.
There are many variables to consider in an adults life that will impact their rest. Things like a stressful job, poor diet, minimal exercise, lousy sleep environment and overuse of electronics can all add up to very detrimental sleeping habits.
Another thing to consider is each person has a different biological chronotype. In other words; you’re either a morning person or a night person. So your sleep schedule will be affected depending on your job hours and other commitments.
Older adults (65+)
Seniors are much more likely to suffer from a bad nights rest, as a result of health issues. One of the most common problems is restless leg syndrome (RLS) which affects 10-35% of seniors. It can also cause periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) which is chronic leg cramping or jerking.
It’s well documented that slow-wave sleep (deep sleep) declines with age also, making it more difficult to feel rested when you wake. It’s still unknown whether this is because of neurodegeneration or it’s a symptom of bad health.
Data shows that the pineal gland (the gland that releases hormones for sleep) gets worse at doing its job as you age.
How to Find out the Exact Amount of Sleep You Need
Here’s what we know so far; the amount of hours you sleep is dependent on many factors. Now, you should take the findings from experts on both sides of the spectrum and test them thoroughly to see how many hours you need at night to feel optimal.
To do that, you need the following two things.
Stage/Cycle monitoring app
Choose an app to monitor the four stages of your sleep, and when you enter each phase. Doing this will help to determine how many hours of REM sleep you get (the deepest stage) and when you can wake up after re-entering the first stages (the lightest stages).
Diary to track bedtime habits
Use a sleep diary to keep track of your routine, habits, disturbances and overall feelings when you get up. You can either use a notebook or just create notes on your phone.
Answer the below questions as soon as you wake up:
After a few weeks of keeping a diary, you’ll start to see patterns emerge that build an overall picture.
Frequently Asked Questions
These are the most common questions that most people have when it comes to finding out how much rest they need.
How much sleep is too little?
Aside from differing opinions amongst experts on the hours needed per night, one thing is certain as of right now, based on the evidence. Anything less than 4 hours a night is not enough to both repair the body and replenish the brain.
Is it ok to get 5 hours of sleep?
Yes. It’s perfectly safe, and research has proven this to be the case.
How much sleep do adults need?
It’s recommended that adults get between 5-9 hours per night for an optimal amount of sleep, anything less or more is considered unsafe.
How long can you go without sleep?
You will enter the beginning sleep deprivation stages within the first 24 hours. In terms of survival, the longest recorded time in history without sleep was 264 hours (11 days), but what’s the point? If you can’t function properly, then there’s no reason to put yourself through that.
Is too much sleep bad for you?
How much sleep do I need for muscle recovery?
If you want to increase muscle mass, then 7-9 hours is recommended. Rest is one of the best forms of muscle recovery, as it enhances human growth hormones and protein synthesis.
Will more sleep get rid of dark circles?
No. Although lack of sleep can contribute to tired-looking eyes, it’s actually a myth that it causes dark circles. The cause is a deficiency in iron and largely down to hereditary reasons.
How much sleep should I get while pregnant?
Sleeping during pregnancy is going to be reasonably uncomfortable at times. Frequent bathroom breaks, tossing and turning, leg cramps, RLS, morning sickness at night and heartburn. You will be sleep-deprived, so should aim for 7-8 hours per night to avoid fatigue throughout the following day.
How many hours sleep do I need to lose weight?
If you’re overweight, 8-9 hours should be the ideal amount. Research shows that sleeping less than 8 hours per day can decrease fat loss by 55%. Levels of ghrelin increase the less you sleep; the result is much worse eating habits and more extended periods of hunger.
Conclusion and Recap: How many hours of sleep do I need?
How much sleep you need depends on your current state of health, work schedule and life commitments, which all contribute to stress levels, weight and sleeping disorders. These factors, in turn, indicate how much sleep you need.
You should focus on enhancing the quality of your sleep in a 5-9 hour window. If you’re looking for a definitive answer to how much sleep you need, you will find it within your tests and not an average statistic.
So here’s what to do next:
- Start tracking your sleep cycles.
- Note down everything in your sleep diary.
- Begin optimizing your nightly routine until you reach the ideal amount of hours that make you feel great.
- When you find your ideal sleep schedule, stick to it. Avoid sleep loss at all costs. Your health depends on it.