You know sleep is important. But clocking a full eight hours every night seems like a luxury. How much do you really need?
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“Two of the main factors that determine the amount of sleep you need are genetics and age,” says Michelle Drerup, PsyD, a psychologist and sleep disorder specialist. Here’s how to find out if you’re hitting your target — or whether your bedtime needs a makeover.
Babies need a lot of sleep. As kids grow, their sleep needs decrease. “By adulthood, most healthy people need 7 to 8.5 hours,” Dr. Drerup says.
Here’s how much kids and adults need, on average according to the CDC:
Shortchanging your sleep long-term can lead to a host of problems, including:
Though sleep needs vary depending on your genes, most adults fall in the seven-to-nine-hour range. If you think you thrive on less, you may want to reconsider.
“There are people who are short sleepers, but it’s pretty rare,” Dr. Drerup notes. “We’re not very good judges of how sleep loss affects us, and most people who think they do well on little sleep would probably function better with a little more.”
One common misconception is that older adults don’t need as much sleep as they did in middle age. Older adults should still aim for at least seven hours, Drerup says.
“Older adults have different sleep patterns. They tend to sleep more lightly and may wake earlier in the morning,” she says. “But you still need the same amount of sleep over 24 hours, so if you’re sleeping less at night, you might need a nap during the day.”
What’s the magic number of hours you should be sleeping? Dr. Drerup offers two strategies for finding out how rested you really are.
An average sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes. Ideally, you want to get five or six of those cycles each night to feel fresh and rested.
You might not have a lot of choice about what time the alarm clock rings in the morning. But you may be able to tweak your bedtime. Figure out how many hours you want to be slumbering, then add on an extra 15 minutes to give yourself time to fall asleep. For example:
Here are some targets for getting seven or eight hours of sleep.
Dr. Drerup offers these tips for sleep success:
When you’re feeling regularly well-rested and bright-eyed after a solid night’s sleep, you’ll wonder why you ever tried to get by with less.