How Much Sleep Is Enough Sleep?
Learn how to figure out your particular magic number
The common myth suggests, and as many of us believe, everyone needs seven to nine hours of sleep a night to feel their absolute best. Admittedly, this is true for the majority of adults. However, as with many of our individual needs, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Many factors play a role in determining how much sleep you need. Age, your body's base need for sleep, sleep quality, pregnancy, and sleep deprivation are a few examples. Even as you age, your need for sleep may be less, six to seven hours, in comparison with younger individuals.
As previously mentioned, sleep needs are individual, and change as you age. For example, newborns may need 14 to 17 hours of sleep a day. Whereas infants may need 12 to 15 hours a day, and teens may need 8 to 10 hours.
Determining How Much Sleep You Need
Here are some questions to ask yourself that may help figure out whether the amount of sleep you’re currently getting is enough to keep you healthy and happy.
1. How long does it take you to fall asleep? In a perfect world, once you hit the sheets you should fall asleep in about 15 to 20 minutes. If you’re lying awake longer than that, there may be a number of factors causing the delay in catching those z’s: anxiety, caffeine, a large meal or maybe even too much sleep. Of course, on the other hand, if you’re barely making it to bed before you nod off, you may not be sleeping enough.
2. Do you need an alarm to wake up? Are you always awake before your alarm goes off? Are you waking up multiple times during the night and it's not due to external influences like drinking too many liquids, coffee or alcohol, or an underlying sleep problem or medical condition? Your brain may be trying to tell you that you’ve had enough sleep. However, are you struggling to wake up in the morning when the alarm goes off? If so, you likely need to get more sleep and possibly try adjusting your sleep schedule.
3. How do you feel? One suggestion is to keep a daily sleep diary. There are many free or low cost options available on your smartphone or tablet. If your not a gadget person and prefer to keep it old-school by handwriting it, grab a journal and track what time you go to bed and get up, along with how you feel during the day. Doing this consistently will help you identify particular challenges, and help you figure out a sleep routine that’s best. Feelings of fatigue, moodiness, or anxiety should not be ignored as these could be your body's way of screaming for more sleep.
You may find, based on your overall mental and physical state, that you're already getting enough sleep. That’s awesome if that’s true, but if it changes, take action.
In some rare instances, you may be getting too much sleep. If this is the case, rest (no pun intended) assured there is a possible solution. Try pushing your bedtime later in 15 minute increments. The opposite would work if you're getting too little sleep. Don’t forget to journal your efforts and feelings. If you've tried eliminating certain beverages, eating too much or drinking too much fluids for several weeks and you still don't wake up feeling refreshed, you may want to talk to your doctor to see if they can suggest another solution.
If you've been deprived of sleep, you may have what’s called sleep debt. Recognize the deprivation and learn how to factor that into your plan and get your body back on track.