Counting sleep, counting sheep (part 1): how many hours of sleep is optimal?
Updated: Aug 30
One of the most essential yet often overlooked components of well-being is sleep. While we're well aware of the need for balanced nutrition and regular exercise, the importance of sleep tends to slip under the radar.
The optimal amount of sleep varies across age groups, as highlighted by scientific research and guidelines established by respected health organizations. Among these organizations is the National Sleep Foundation, which has provided comprehensive recommendations outlining the ideal sleep durations across different age groups.
Here's a closer look at the recommended sleep durations for various stages of life:
Infants (0-12 Months)
Recommended Sleep: 14-17 hours per day
Sleep is critically important during this stage for brain development and growth. Infants in the 4-11 month range might see a reduction to 12-15 hours, but overall, very young children require significant amounts of sleep. As infants grow, their sleep patterns tend to become more predictable.
Toddlers (1-2 Years)
Recommended Sleep: 11-14 hours per day
As children reach the toddler stage, sleep remains essential for cognitive and physical development but decreases slightly in terms of total hours needed.
Young Children (3-5 Years)
Recommended Sleep: 10-13 hours per day
The amount of sleep continues to decreases compared to toddlers.
School-age Children (6-13 Years)
Recommended Sleep: 9-11 hours per night
Adequate sleep is crucial for this age group to support learning, cognitive development, and emotional regulation.
Adolescents (14-17 Years)
Recommended Sleep: 8-10 hours per night
During adolescence, sleep supports the hormonal changes and growth spurts typical of this life stage.
Adults (18-64 Years)
Recommended Sleep: 7-9 hours per night
The need for sleep stabilizes in adulthood but remains crucial for cognitive function, mood regulation, and overall health. Adequate sleep contributes to productivity, immune function, and effective stress management.
Older Adults (65+ Years)
Recommended Sleep: 7-8 hours per night
Sleep architecture (the structure and pattern of sleep) changes with age, and older adults may experience more fragmented sleep. However, the need for sleep does not significantly decrease.
These are general guidelines, and individual sleep needs can deviate from these averages due to factors like genetics, lifestyle choices, and health conditions. Quality of sleep is equally important; achieving deep, uninterrupted sleep enhances the benefits of the recommended duration.
If you're concerned about your sleep patterns or experiencing sleep difficulties, consulting a healthcare professional or a sleep specialist can provide tailored guidance to improve your sleep quality and overall well-being.
Hirshkowitz, Max et al. “National Sleep Foundation's sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary.” Sleep health vol. 1,1 (2015): 40-43. doi:10.1016/j.sleh.2014.12.010