How Much Sleep You Should Actually Be Getting, Depending On Your Age
Over the years, you may have noticed that you can get away with less sleep than you used to—but does that mean a good night's rest becomes less important as we grow up? Not exactly. Here's an overview of what we know about sleep through the ages and the recommended amount for each age bracket.
The recommended amount of sleep by age group.
The most current sleep recommendations were updated in 2015 by a panel of 15 experts in sleep medicine1 after they analyzed 5,314 scientific articles on sleep.
And while the researchers note, "A clearer understanding of the precise biological mechanisms underlying sleep need continues to require further scientific investigation," they concluded that the average healthy adult needs seven or more hours of sleep per night, while younger age groups tend to require more.
Here, their official sleep recommendations2, presented by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and the Sleep Research Society (SRS):
- Newborns, 0–3 months: not stated (but the National Sleep Foundation3 recommends 14 to 17 hours)
- Infants, 4–11 months: 12–16 hours
- Toddlers, 1–2 years: 11–14 hours
- Preschoolers, 3–5 years: 10–13 hours
- Children, 6–12 years: 9–12 hours
- Teenagers 13–17 years: 8–10 hours
- Adults, 18+: 7 or more hours
But wait: Sleep advice isn't one-size-fits-all.
These AASM and SRS recommendations will suit most people. But as we've all surely experienced, there are all kinds of factors that influence how much sleep we might need on any given night.
And as Canadian researchers note in a 2018 publication on sleep duration, "There is no magic number or ideal amount of sleep4 to get each night that could apply broadly to all. The optimal amount of sleep should be individualized, as it depends on many factors."
We all have that friend who's fine with seven hours, and one who swears they need nine. It turns out that factors such as genetics, health status, diet, activity level, and hormonal balance can all influence whether you need more or less sleep.
"What is most important is for each individual to get the amount of sleep they need," naturopathic sleep doctor Catherine Darley, N.D., tells mbg. "Sleep need is a bell curve."
And while some of us will require less sleep than others, sleep inadequacy over time is never a good thing. If you're consistently getting less than seven hours of sleep, your body and mind are likely paying the price. There is also evidence that when it comes to sleep, consistency is key. Research shows5 people who get four hours of sleep or less on some nights and 10 hours or more on others experience a negative impact on cognitive function than those who consistently get seven hours or more.
How to get quality sleep.
Darley notes that the age group most in need of more sleep tends to be teens, and the occupational groups most in need of additional slumber are police, military, and health professionals. If getting at least seven hours per night on a regular basis has been a struggle for you, there are a number of approaches you can try to catch the right amount of Zzz's for your needs:
Create a bedtime routine.
Whatever it is you need to do to unwind and prepare for bed at night—do it! Maybe it's taking a warm bath, doing some yin yoga, or reading with a cup of chamomile. Try leaving your phone in a different room, to resist the temptation to scroll, and opt for something that tells your brain, We're settling down.
As co-author of Sleep for Success! Rebecca Robbins, Ph.D., previously told mbg, "Sleep is a process and does take time. Prepare your body and brain for rest by prioritizing relaxing activities in the 30 minutes before bed."
Try a magnesium supplement.
Magnesium is a mineral that can help promote relaxation and get the body and mind ready for bed.* Allergist and immunologist Heather Moday, M.D., previously wrote on mbg that magnesium "assists calcium and potassium in muscle relaxation, which you need for deep sleep,"* she says. "In addition, it inhibits the release of certain stress hormones like adrenaline and can help maintain a regular cortisol response."*
mbg's magnesium supplement, sleep support+, combines this essential mineral with two other proven sleep promoters: jujube seed extract and PharmaGABA®.* The result is a sleep supplement that's powerful enough to help people fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer but gentle enough to use every night.*
Keep a consistent sleep schedule.
As mentioned earlier, consistency is key. And while factors like school, work, children, and stress can make it a challenge, it's important to try to stick with a consistent bedtime and wake-up time for the sake of your brain health, overall energy levels, and more. Plus, training your body to sleep and wake up at the same time every day can help you fall asleep faster and wake up with more energy.
Avoid alcohol before bed.
And lastly, "avoiding smoking and alcohol consumption immediately before bedtime is highly recommended," NYU professor of public health Girardin Jean-Louis, Ph.D., previously told mbg. After all, we now know that drinking alcohol before bed inhibits ever-important REM sleep.
The bottom line.
Sleep is so crucial, and if you're consistently getting too little or too much, it's not something to overlook. Following basic sleep hygiene and getting at least seven hours a night should put you in great shape for a good night's sleep—and an energized day.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.