How Much Sleep Do we Really Need?

Humans, like all animals, need sleep, along with food, water and oxygen, to survive. For humans sleep is a vital indicator of overall health and well-being. We spend up to one-third of our lives asleep, and the overall state of our “sleep health” remains an essential question throughout our lifespan.

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The National Sleep Foundation (NSF), along with a multi-disciplinary expert panel, issued its recommendations for appropriate sleep durations. The report recommends wider appropriate sleep ranges for most age groups. The results are published in Sleep Health: The Journal of the National Sleep Foundation. The National Sleep Foundation convened experts from sleep, anatomy and physiology, as well as pediatrics, neurology, gerontology and gynecology to reach a consensus from the broadest range of scientific disciplines. The panel revised the recommended sleep ranges for all six children and teen age groups. A summary of the new recommendations includes:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
  • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
  • Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
  • School-age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)

“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,” said Charles A. Czeisler, PhD, MD, chairman of the board of the National Sleep Foundation, chief of sleep and circadian disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Baldino Professor of Sleep Medicine at the Harvard Medical School.  “The National Sleep Foundation is providing these scientifically grounded guidelines on the amount of sleep we need each night to improve the sleep health of the millions of individuals and parents who rely on us for this information.”

A new range, “may be appropriate,” has been added to acknowledge the individual variability in appropriate sleep durations. The recommendations now define times as either (a) recommended; (b) may be appropriate for some individuals; or (c) not recommended.

“The National Sleep Foundation Sleep Duration Recommendations will help individuals make sleep schedules that are within a healthy range. They also serve as a useful starting point for individuals to discuss their sleep with their health care providers,” said David Cloud, CEO of the National Sleep Foundation.

National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Duration Recommendations:

 Age  Recommended May be appropriate Not recommended
Newborns0-3 months 14 to 17 hours 11 to 13 hours18 to 19 hours Less than 11 hoursMore than 19 hours
Infants4-11 months 12 to 15 hours 10 to 11 hours16 to 18 hours Less than 10 hoursMore than 18 hours
Toddlers1-2 years 11 to 14 hours 9 to 10 hours15 to 16 hours Less than 9 hoursMore than 16 hours
Preschoolers3-5 years 10 to 13 hours 8 to 9 hours14 hours Less than 8 hoursMore than 14 hours
School-aged Children6-13 years 9 to 11 hours 7 to 8 hours12 hours Less than 7 hoursMore than 12 hours
Teenagers14-17 years 8 to 10 hours 7 hours11 hours Less than 7 hoursMore than 11 hours
Young Adults18-25 years 7 to 9 hours 6 hours10 to 11 hours Less than 6 hoursMore than 11 hours
Adults26-64 years 7 to 9 hours 6 hours10 hours Less than 6 hoursMore than 10 hours
Older Adults≥ 65 years 7 to 8 hours 5 to 6 hours9 hours Less than 5 hoursMore than 9 hours

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Academy of Pediatrics

The recommendations are the result of multiple rounds of consensus voting after a comprehensive review of published scientific studies on sleep and health. The expert panel included six sleep experts and experts from the following stakeholder organizations:

  • Gerontological Society of America             – Human Anatomy and Physiology Society
  • American Psychiatric Association              – American Thoracic Society
  • American Neurological Association           – American Physiological Society
  • American College of Chest Physicians      – American Geriatrics Society
  • Society for Research in Human Development
  • American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

“The NSF has committed to regularly reviewing and providing scientifically rigorous recommendations,” says Max Hirshkowitz, PhD, Chair of the National Sleep Foundation Scientific Advisory Council. “The public can be confident that these recommendations represent the best guidance for sleep duration and health.”

About the National Sleep Foundation

The National Sleep Foundation is dedicated to improving health and well-being through sleep education and advocacy. Founded in 1990 by the leaders in sleep medicine, NSF is the trusted resource for sleep science, healthy sleep habits, and sleep disorders to medical professionals, patients and the public. For more information visit sleepfoundation.org or sleep.org.

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