You’ve probably heard the idea by now that the typical person needs around eight hours of sleep each night.
But, if you’re like most Americans, there’s a good chance you haven’t actually been getting the right amount of sleep since you were a toddler.
We are a chronically sleep deprived society, and as we all know, the first step to finding a solution to something like this is to thoroughly understand the problem.
Do you really know how many hours of sleep you actually need?
Would you even be able to tell whether or not you were getting them?
Read on to find out more about the proper amount of sleep you need!
What the Science Says
To get to the bottom of this question, the National Sleep Foundation convened an 18-person panel of sleep experts to discuss their views on the appropriate amount of sleep for every age group.
You can read their full report on it here, but overall, the experts recommended that most adults should get seven to nine hours of sleep every single night in order to see the best results in their health and daily lives.
Six to ten hours of sleep may also be appropriate for a very small set of people, but it’s not recommended for anybody to go under six or over ten per night.
So, seven to nine hours for most adults, plus or minus an hour if you’re especially unusual.
Keep in mind, though, that this range only applies to adults—not any other age group.
Your doctor-recommended amount of sleep actually varies quite a bit as you age.
Newborns are supposed to get between 14 and 17 hours every night, while adults over 65 will likely want to be getting somewhere between seven and eight hours.
Here’s the National Sleep Foundation’s full chart:
|Age||Recommended||May be appropriate||Not recommended|
|14 to 17||11 to 13|
18 to 19
|Less than 11|
More than 19
|12 to 15||10 to 11|
16 to 18
|Less than 10|
More than 18
|11 to 14||9 to 10|
15 to 16
|Less than 9|
More than 16
|10 to 13||8 to 9|
|Less than 8|
More than 14
|9 to 11||7 to 8|
|Less than 7|
More than 12
|8 to 10||7|
|Less than 7|
More than 11
|7 to 9||6|
10 to 11
|Less than 6|
More than 11
|7 to 9||6|
|Less than 6|
More than 10
|7 to 8||5 to 6|
|Less than 5|
More than 9
But Everyone Is Different
Although your age alone can often give you a pretty good idea as to the amount of sleep you want to get most nights, you also have to keep in mind that everyone is different.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how many hours of sleep you should get, and unfortunately, you can’t just “decide” that you’re one of those outliers who only needs six hours to function!
Understanding your own needs is the key to living a happy, healthy, and successful life, and sleep is no exception.
If you’re not getting enough sleep at night, there’s a good chance you…
- Have trouble waking up in the morning
- Find yourself hitting the snooze button multiple times
- Feel tired in the afternoons
- Need to nap just to get through the day
- Get sleepy when it’s hot out our during boring down periods
People who are getting the right amount of sleep feel alert and well-rested all day long, from the early morning until they settle down for bed.
How Long Should It Take You to Fall Asleep?
Another sign you’re not getting enough sleep is if you fall asleep within five minutes of lying down.
This means you’ve been running your body way too hard, and it’s just jumping at the first chance it can get to refresh itself!
If you’re getting a good amount of sleep, it’ll probably take you around 15 to 20 minutes to get to sleep after you first lie down for the night.
There are a couple reasons it might take you longer than that.
First of all, you might be one of the rare people who are actually getting too much sleep.
If that’s you, congratulations—you have more time in your day than you thought you did!
But if you’re taking more than 20 minutes to get to sleep and are still feeling tired throughout the day, there are probably other contributing factors—things like caffeine, anxiety, or insomnia.
If you’ve been lying in bed for over 20 minutes trying to get to sleep and it still hasn’t worked, don’t force it.
Just get up and do something else for a little while until you start to feel tired!
Other Signs of Sleep Deprivation
Over a prolonged stretch of time, sleep deprivation can lead to some scary stuff.
In addition to your basic fatigue and sleepiness, sleep deprivation also makes you less stable in a lot of ways.
You might find yourself experiencing mood swings or uncalled for irritableness.
You might find yourself less creative, or have trouble concentrating.
Lack of sleep can also lead to relationship problems and performance issues, since all your body really wants to do is sleep!
Trust your body to tell you what it needs.
Sleep deprivation’s symptoms are no joke, and if you push yourself to develop better sleeping habits, just about every area of your life stands to improve.
How Much Does the Average American Sleep?
Now, of course all of this sounds nice on paper.
Once we get into practice, though, things start to get a little less cut-and-dry.
We all lead busy lives.
Maybe you have one last assignment you have to get done for a class.
Maybe you’re living with little ones who wake up a lot during the night, or maybe you just can’t resist a couple extra hours on your laptop or cellphone.
Whatever your specific reason, the fact remains that a lot of us are getting well below our doctor-recommended seven hour minimum.
According to a Gallup poll, the average American adult gets just 6.8 hours of sleep per night—making this one sleep deprived nation!
And even though the number of hours of sleep you need per night is supposed to go down as you age, American adults’ average sleep hours actually go up: 67% of folks over 65 are getting more than six hours of sleep each night.
Another interesting thing to realize is that, of all people getting six hours or less sleep per night, 32%–about one in three—said they were getting as much sleep as they needed.
Although you might be able to feel OK if you’ve gotten acclimated to very little sleep at night, research shows that chronically sleep deprived people perform much worse on complex mental tasks than people who are getting healthier amounts of sleep.
How to Get More Sleep
There are a number of different tips and tricks you can try out to increase your hours of shuteye per night.
If you’ve been budgeting enough time each night but still find yourself taking too long to get to sleep, you should check out our full article on sleep technique here.
A lot of the time, though, the problem is really just allowing yourself the time you need to feel well-rested in the morning.
And it’s true, sleep is a big time commitment.
But there are just so many benefits to taking care of yourself here, it just makes sense for you to put aside the time to get this one thing right.
Now, don’t just try to do it all at once.
Your sleep schedule can’t just change overnight.
If you’ve been getting too little sleep and want to change, you need to teach your body to feel tired earlier in the night.
Try pushing back your bedtime by 15 minutes each night until you’re consistently waking up alert and refreshed in the mornings.
Above all, realize that a single night of good sleep is simply not enough.
If you’ve consistently been getting less than seven hours of sleep each night, you’ve racked up a sleep debt far higher than anything you can take care of in one go.
Fixing your habits is the only long-term solution, here.
Finding the number of hours in the day to get a decent amount of sleep is no simple task.
And it’s easy to see why—unlike other activities, which offer clear, tangible rewards if you do them well, sleep’s benefits are harder to quantify and sometimes easier to ignore.
Don’t let yourself fall into this trap.
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We know it’s tough out there, finding the right amount of time to sleep.
Don’t make it harder than it has to be by trying to get to sleep on an uncomfortable mattress.
How are you going to get the amount of sleep you need if you’re wasting precious time tossing and turning on an unforgiving bed?
It’s just not going to happen.
If you think your mattress might be in any way at fault for your poor sleep habits, consider trying out a new model.
It’s just one suggestion of many, but a good mattress is often the first step to developing the healthy sleep habits you need.