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How Much Sleep do You Need?

Elizabeth Renter
November 3rd, 2012
Updated 11/03/2012 at 2:22 am
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sleepinggirl 245x153 How Much Sleep do You Need?How much sleep do you need? There’s little consensus on how much sleep we should get each night—and there’s good reason for this. Each person has different sleep needs. Some people operate at their best after 9 hours while others seem to only need 5 hours each night. But, what is really the optimal amount of sleep for the average person?

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. Teens should get between 8.5 and 9.25, and children between the ages of 5 and 10 should get between 10 and 11 hours. The younger you are, the more sleep you need, with up to 18 hours recommended for newborns.

But the recommended amount of sleep doesn’t tell the whole story. For instance, if you are very active, you may need more, or less. Likewise, if you are ill, your body can use the additional rest to heal and strengthen your immune system.

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How Much Sleep do You Need? Some Things to Consider

Because we all have unique needs in regards to sleep, a better barometer of whether or not you are getting enough sleep is how you feel. Some signs that you may need more Zzzz’s include:

You are sick - A lack of sleep can hinder all sorts of your body’s defenses, including your immune system. If you find yourself vulnerable to viruses being “passed around” the office or always feel a little under the weather, another hour or two of sleep each night could be just what’s needed to strengthen your system and increase your body’s natural defenses.

You are always eating - When we are tired, our body looks for sources of energy. This is often completely a subconscious thing. When you don’t get enough sleep, your brain may think calories will provide the missing energy. If you’re craving sugar and processed carbs (quick energy), look at your sleep habits to break the junk food cycle.

You feel unfocused - Our brains need rest. When we don’t get enough, our concentration and mental clarity can suffer. A brain fog could be a sign that you need to hit the sack a little earlier each night.

Your emotions are out of whack - Many people find themselves to be extra sensitive when they don’t sleep well. From being extra weepy to having a bad temper, mood swings are a good indication of how well-rested you are.

Not getting enough sleep puts you at a greater risk of heart disease, diabetes, depression, substance abuse, and even car accidents. If you find yourself always waking up tired, try out some of these herbal sleep remedies. Additionally, be wary of sleeping pills, as they have been linked to an increased risk of cancer and premature death. Get enough sleep that you feel good in the mornings—ready to conquer the day and able to think clearly to make good, healthy life choices.

Additional Sources:

BMJ Journal

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  • Kym

    What about when you're pregnant? I notice I need far more sleep when I'm pregnant, something that's hard to do when you have other little ones, lol.

  • Imahoopie

    I think it depends. If you have circumstances which limit your ability to have deep REM sleep, you will probably need more sleep overall to accommodate. For example, my son has a deviated septum from a sports injury so he sleeps a lot more simply because his quality of sleep isn't as good. Living in a noisy urban area can also interfere with deep sleep causing you to feel tired or needing to sleep more.

    • Karen

      Imahoopie, get him checked by a good ENT specialist if you can. Poor breathing at night longterm can cause a lot of health problems, including reduced grades at school from tiredness in the day.

  • Alan D. Smith

    Our subconscious minds know when we've had the perfect amount of sleep and then bring us naturally to consciousness, automatically. Usually, this is around six hours and fifteen minutes. It differs if we've had a stressful day, were sick, etc. When you wake up naturally, it feels as if you've taken a small dose of speed. When you wake up naturally the bed feels wonderful. And, when you get up then, your day will feel as wonderful. So, when you wake up, sit up and get up. It'll add years to your life and life to your years.