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How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?

Man sleeping

Not getting enough sleep has huge effects on our health — from foggy thinking to heart problems to weight gain — but just how much sleep is considered enough?

That’s the question the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) tackled with a panel of scientists who reviewed more than 300 sleep-duration studies and came up with new guidelines, including one for people age 65-plus.

“This is the first time that any professional organization has developed age-specific recommended sleep durations based on a rigorous, systematic review of the world scientific literature relating sleep duration to health, performance and safety,” Charles Czeisler, M.D., chairman of the board of the National Sleep Foundation and chief of the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said in a statement.

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Based on the research, the NSF revised its previous guidelines, making slight changes to the amount of sleep for some ages and adding two new age categories — for young adults, ages 18 to 25, and older adults, 65 and older.

The new recommendations also include more sleep for infants, children and teens:

  • Newborns (0 to 3 months): 14 to 17 hours (previously 12 to 18)
  • Infants (4 to 11 months): 12 to 15 hours (previously 14 to 15)
  • Toddlers (1 to 2 years): 11 to 14 hours (previously 12 to 14)
  • Preschoolers (3 to 5 years): 10 to 13 hours (previously 11 to 13)
  • School-age children (6 to 13 years): 9 to 11 hours (previously 10 to 11)
  • Teenagers (14 to 17 years): 8 to 10 hours (previously 8.5 to 9.5)
  • Younger adults (18 to 25 years): 7 to 9 hours (new age category)
  • Adults (26 to 64 years): 7 to 9 hours (no change)
  • Older adults (65+ years): 7 to 8 hours (new age category)

The impetus for the new guidelines came after the NSF noticed the popularity of its website’s “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?” feature.

“Sleep duration was basically one of the most visited pages on the NSF website, and it wasn’t really clear how those recommendations for the ranges had been arrived at,” Max Hirshkowitz, chair of the foundation’s Scientific Advisory Council, told The Huffington Post.

The panel of six sleep experts and 12 medical experts from organizations such as the American Geriatrics Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics reviewed 312 studies of sleep duration in healthy human subjects published between 2004 and 2014.

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Because they’re based on the research, the guidelines are for “healthy individuals and those not suffering from a sleep disorder,” the study authors wrote.

While people may sometimes sleep outside the recommended range, “individuals who habitually sleep outside the normal range may be exhibiting signs or symptoms of serious health problems,” or, if done by choice, “may be compromising their health and well-being,” the researchers added.

Photo: digitalskillet/iStock

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