There are so many varying opinions on how much sleep we should be getting each night. Some say that 8 hours is the ‘magic number’ and others swear that they only need 6 hours per night to make them feel refreshed and well-slept the next day. But how many hours of sleep do we actually need each night? And is it really that important for us to sleep for a certain amount of time every night?
According to a recent report from The Sleep Council, 70% of us are not getting enough sleep each night. This is a scary statistic considering how important sleep is for helping our bodies and minds to recover at the end of every day. Not to mention the other health benefits related to sleep, such as its ability to boost our immune systems, fight off infections, improve our memory and more.
The amount of sleep we need differs hugely from person to person, depending on a range of different factors, one of the most influential being our age.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults aged 18-64 should be getting 7-9 hours of sleep every night, with the recommendation for older adults (65+) being 7-8 hours and teenagers requiring slightly more at 8-10 hours each night. Younger age groups need even more sleep, with toddlers requiring up to 15 hours a night, which unfortunately is not often in keeping with their parents’ sleep schedules!
Above: Recommended amount of sleep by age group according to the National Sleep Foundation.
As well as our age, there are many other factors that may affect how much sleep each person needs, such as our individual characteristics and even our genes. Many of us often make conscious decisions at bedtime which can result in us not getting as much sleep as we maybe should. Scrolling through social media for instance, or watching ‘just one more episode’ of a TV show. We often think that these choices won’t make much of a difference to the quality or quantity of sleep we get each night - but they can. Professor Matthew Walker from the University of California states that a lack of sleep can lead to our brains being unable to make new memories the next day. Not only this, but sleep deprivation can also significantly increase the risk of suffering from a heart attack or stroke later on in life.
Ongoing research surrounding the complex notion of sleep is beginning to suggest that it may be the case that some of us do need more sleep than others. Findings from a recent study conducted by scientists from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) suggest that our DNA may be partly to blame for our lack of sleep. The study revealed that our genetic makeup could have some influence on the amount of sleep we get each night, as their research found significant differences in a group of genes which may be able to explain why some of us need more sleep than others.
Sleep is so important for our general wellbeing, so making sure we’re getting enough of it is just as important as making sure we’re getting enough food or water! We hope this post has been useful in helping you to identify whether or not you’re getting the recommended amount of sleep each night.