One of the most common questions sleep experts get asked is “How much sleep do I need?” The reality is that sleep is a very unique experience for each of us, what works for you might not work for someone else. In general, research shows that we need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night on average, but this should just be used as a rule of thumb.
The amount of sleep each one of us needs depends on many factors like genetic make-up, age, and gender. It’s also important to note that throughout different stages of your life, the amount you need will change. Babies initially sleep as much as 16 to 18 hours per day, which can boost growth and brain development. Elementary and middle school children need about 9-11 hours and teens need an average of about 8-10 hours of sleep every night.
But, as for the 7-9 hours adults need, these are only averages and sleep needs (for adults) may vary from 5 to 10 hours. For example, some people are natural short sleepers, who are fully rested and functional during the day after less than 6 hours of sleep. Research shows that it’s due to their genetics and that natural short sleepers represent only a small percentage of society .
Many people search for ways to “train” themselves to need less sleep, however for better or for worse that is not possible. It is a common fact that in this day and age we are getting less sleep than necessary, since we are faced with many competing and important needs (such as work, family, social commitments, caregiver responsibilities and leisure time). As a result, sleep tends to not be given the necessary importance, and many of us don’t fully understand how much of it we require to be healthy and function well in our day-to-day lives.
Some signs that you may not be getting enough sleep are: waking up feeling un-energetic in the morning, feeling sleepy or drowsy during the day, taking less than 5 minutes to fall asleep at night, feeling irritable or moody, and having trouble focusing on your tasks.
If you’re not sure how much sleep you need, we suggest a “sleep vacation”. If you get the opportunity to sleep in for a few days, give it a try! Simply follow these steps:
- Go to bed at a reasonable time for you or when your body signals readiness for sleep. Try not to delay your sleep time simply because you can get up any time you want.
- Sleep until you wake up naturally without using an alarm clock and, if possible, inform your family members or roommates so they don’t wake you up . The first night you’ll probably sleep in a little longer because you’re likely catching up on some missed sleep.
- Continue going to sleep at the same time over the next few days. You’ll find yourself waking up around the same time in the morning.
Now you know how much sleep YOUR body needs! Try making it a priority to achieve that amount of sleep every night and create your very own personal sleep plan.
However, if you‘re still feeling tired after a couple of nights, try going to bed at an earlier time. If this still doesn’t help, you may want to bring it up in a conversation with your personal sleep coach or sleep expert to better understand your personal sleep journey.