The need for sleep can significantly vary among different people, as it is dependent upon your age, lifestyle, and health. It is essential to evaluate what factors in your daily routine are affecting the quality and amount of sleep you get each night. These factors can include work schedules and stress. Research suggests that there is no magic number for the amount of sleep an individual needs each night, but an analysis of your sleep needs can help direct you to getting an optimal amount of sleep to maintain your sleep hygiene.
So how much sleep do you really need? According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, infants normally require around 16 hours of sleep each day, while young adolescents require about an average of 9 hours. Adults usually need around 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Pregnant women in the first trimester oftentimes demand several more hours of sleep than the average adult. These average values indicate an individual’s basal sleep need, or the amount of sleep necessary for our bodies to function at optimal levels.
A study in 1998 at the University of Illinois at Chicago found that individual changes in biologic sleep need and sleep quality may be developing as early as when one is 14 years old. This indicates the fundamental need for early evaluation of sleep needs. If you have deprived yourself of sleep the previous day, the amount of sleep you will need the subsequent night increases. Not getting sufficient sleep results in the creation of a “sleep debt”, leading to your body demanding that the sleep deficit be filled. If you experience drowsiness during the day, you have not had an adequate amount of sleep. In addition to this, falling asleep after lying down for only about 5 minutes, signifies sleep deprivation and may even be indicative of a sleep disorder.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, as you age, you are less able to consolidate sleep for the same amount of time as when you were younger. Sleeping times tend to become more fragmented as you get older such as less sleep occurring at night and more frequent naps occurring during the day. The amount of time spent in slow-wave sleep, or deep sleep, is decreased with age. Aging men are more susceptible to loss of restorative sleep.
Individuals who do not fulfill their basal sleep needs may be at risk for serious health consequences and complications. These complications include an increased risk of diabetes, heart problems, depression, substance abuse, and drowsy driving. A short sleeping duration is also linked to an increase in body mass index, increasing the likelihood of obesity due to an escalation of appetite. A 1995 evaluation of sleep deprivation, performed at Wright State University, concluded that there exists solid evidence that sufficient disturbances or shortening of sleep compromises attitude, performance, and attentiveness, which could lead to death or injury.
In 2006, an evaluation at the University of Chicago concluded that there is currently no sufficient evidence regarding the correlation between sleeping too much and disease or mortality. This does not indicate that individuals should focus on sleep extension beyond what they normally require to function properly.
If you feel you are not getting an adequate amount of sleep that you need, it is important to be evaluated by a suitable healthcare professional on your basal sleep needs in order for your body to function properly. A healthcare professional can help determine if you suffer from a significant sleep condition, such as sleep apnea or insomnia. Sleeping should be a priority in your life; so make sure that you do not postpone it until all other tasks in your life are completed. Sleeping must always take precedence!
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Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep [Internet]. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke [updated 2014 Jul 25]. Available from: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/brain_basics/understanding_sleep.htm
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Sleep myths: Separating fact from fiction [Internet]. American Academy of Sleep Medicine; 2012 Oct 29 [cited 2014 Oct 31]. Available from: http://www.sleepeducation.com/news/2012/10/29/sleep-myths-separating-fact-from-fiction
Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:
Ferrara, M., & De Gennaro, L. (2001). How much sleep do we need?. Sleep medicine reviews, 5(2), 155-179.
Auer, G., Giannini, V., Desset, C., Godor, I., Skillermark, P., Olsson, M., ... & Fehske, A. (2011). How much energy is needed to run a wireless network?. IEEE Wireless Communications, 18(5), 40-49.
Dahl, R. E., & Lewin, D. S. (2002). Pathways to adolescent health sleep regulation and behavior. Journal of adolescent health, 31(6), 175-184.
Yang, C. K., Kim, J. K., Patel, S. R., & Lee, J. H. (2005). Age-related changes in sleep/wake patterns among Korean teenagers. Pediatrics,115(Supplement 1), 250-256.
Banks, S., & Dinges, D. F. (2007). Behavioral and physiological consequences of sleep restriction. J Clin Sleep Med, 3(5), 519-528.