How much sleep do you really need

How much sleep do you really need?

Well now. This really depends on your age. How much sleep you need is also dependant on your level of physical and mental exertion, but predominantly on your age and your sex.

Children vs adults

Readers with children and/or grandchildren will know how much infants and young children sleep. New-borns need 15 hours or more and young children between 3 and 5 need in excess of 10 hours. Whereas adults need much less, and elderly folk even less so. There is a strong link here between how much sleep is required, and growth and learning together. Other factors which are influential are your level of physical and mental activity and also your levels of stress.

The NSF (US) research findings

The National Sleep Foundation (US) conducted a study over a two year period to measure how much sleep is actually needed based on those and other factors. Their research was desk based and they scoured other research papers and information which looked at lifestyle factors and age, predominantly. The panel consisted of 18 experts from various research-based organisations.

Some of the elements they looked at other than age, included, amongst others:

  • Performance
  • Executive function
  • Cognition
  • Mood
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Accidents
  • Attention deficit
  • Impulse control
  • Anxiety
  • Health
  • Hypertension
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Pain

The panel determined that sleep requirements are age-specific in relation to growth, learning, cognitive needs, and physical output requirements of the body.

They added a category for young adults aged 18-25, which previously had not been included, however they found that this group required much the same sleep in hours as the older group of 26-65.

The panel then divided the results into three categories, namely: may be appropriate, appropriate and not appropriate. These categories show the amount of hours that:

  • could be appropriate for some individuals,
  • the recommended number of hours for optimal health and well-being and then,
  • inappropriate number of hours (i.e. not recommended).

They published the following infographic showing their findings in an easy to interpret visual format:


The findings concluded that the amount of sleep required was not akin to the amount of time in bed, but rather the total sleep time.

Read our article ‘Your healthy sleep regime’, to find out how to improve on your sleep quality so that you can get your full recommended number of hours in a night.

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