Sleep is the thing we need more of but often struggle to get. With a busy lifestyle and a plethora of responsibilities that require your attention, it can be difficult to prioritise sleep. This, coupled with frequent technology use, means that both your sleep quantity and quality could be affected.
When it comes to the number of hours of slumber you need each night, this varies from person to person and largely depends on your age. But, we all have one thing in common when it comes to sleep — you need it to live a healthy life.
So, how many hours of slumber per night do you really need? Well, the general rule of thumb from medical professionals is that it depends on your age. For example, babies and children need a lot of sleep, with the Mayo Clinic recommending 14 to 17 hours of sleep a day for newborns and 11 to 12 hours a night for two-year-olds.
Teenagers also need a lot of sleep — roughly eight to 10 hours — while adults fall into the seven to nine category. According to Mayo Clinic, this sleep recommendation for adults can change when taking into account other factors including pregnancy, which often increases the need for sleep in the early trimesters, as well as ageing.
Older adults need roughly the same amount of sleep as teenagers and young adults. “As you get older, however, your sleeping patterns might change,” Mayo Clinic says. “Older adults tend to sleep more lightly and for shorter time spans than do younger adults.”
Despite this advice, adults rarely achieve this much sleep. In fact, about 50% of adults actually sleep less than these recommendations. This is worrying, says Harvard Health Publishing, because the average person has worse health outcomes (including a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease) if they sleep less or more than these recommended ranges.
In saying that, it’s hard to work out who exactly the “average” person is, given that genes play a large role in health outcomes and as such, poor sleep will impact everyone’s health differently.
“Unfortunately, we currently have no way of telling if you might be one of those lucky people,” said Harvard Health Publishing. “So, as often is true in life, it’s wisest to play the odds and follow the general advice. Also, don’t be concerned if on any given night you sleep more or less than is advised. The advice applies to the average amount of sleep you get.”
What about those people who say they function well on just a couple of hours of sleep per night? Well, they might think they are functioning just fine, but their performance is likely affected. According to Mayo Clinic, research shows that people who sleep just a few hours a night don’t perform as well on complex mental tasks as those who get closer to seven hours of sleep per night.
So, the advice here is to aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep per night for your health. While it might not be possible every single night, make it a daily priority just as you do with work, friends and family. Scheduling in your bedtime might seem odd but once you create a routine, catching more zzz’s will be far easier.