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How Much Sleep Do You Need?

Finding the right amount of sleep for you is the first step towards a satisfying sleep schedule.

From refusing to go to bed as children to sleeping all the time as teenagers, the amount of sleep you need to live a healthy lifestyle changes as you age. However, it can be hard to know how much time you should spend sleeping – especially when juggling so many other priorities. Giving your body ample high-quality sleep is key in maintaining physical, emotional, and mental health. Learn more about how much you should sleep and how to improve your sleep schedule, and take the first step towards a healthier lifestyle.

How Many Hours Should You Sleep?

The number of hours of sleep you need will vary by age and individual. Children need significantly more sleep than adults since their brains and bodies are still rapidly developing.[1] As you age, the amount needed decreases. Although researchers have identified normal ranges of sleep for different age groups, individual preference can play a role as well. Some adults might feel perfectly well rested with just seven hours of sleep a night, while others might not feel fully alert without at least eight. For a good starting point, you can reference the National Sleep Foundation’s sleep duration guidelines by age: [2]

Optimal Hours of Sleep by Age

Age Group

Hours of Sleep Recommended

Newborns (0–3 months)

14–17 hours

Infants (4–11 months)

12–15 hours

Toddlers (1–2 years)

11–14 hours

Preschoolers (3–5 years)

10–13 hour

Children (6–13 years)

9–11 hours

Teenagers (14–17 years)

8–10 hours

Young adults (18–25 years)

7–9 hours

Adults (26–64 years)

7–9 hours

Older adults (≥65 years)

7–8 hours

Remember that the amount of sleep you need may vary from these recommendations. However, chronic sleep deprivation is connected to a variety of health issues ranging from high blood pressure to reduced cognitive performance and drowsiness.[3]

Can I Calculate How Much Sleep I Need?

Although there’s no magic formula for calculating how much sleep you need, it is possible to get a rough ballpark based on your age, activity level, and overall sense of well-being. The most important factor to start with is your age. If you’re an adult between 18 and 65 years old, you will need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep.[4] From here, you should factor in your activity level. If you’re extremely active or working a physically taxing job, you may need even more sleep than the normal range. Finally, remember that the most important guide for your sleep duration should be your individual sense of well-being. Here are some questions that might help guide you:

  • Do you wake up feeling well-rested?
  • Are you able to get through your day without drowsiness or dependency on caffeine?
  • Do you feel productive and happy after a normal night of sleep?

Sleep Quality Versus Quantity

While the amount of time you spend asleep is very important, the quality of that time asleep is equally important. Deep sleep and REM sleep is when your body recuperates and develops, and without enough time spent in those stages of the sleep cycle, you may notice symptoms of sleep deprivation.[5] In addition to finding the best times to sleep and wake up that will allow you the amount of sleep you need, improved sleep hygiene will typically result in higher-quality sleep.[6] If you still find yourself having trouble sleeping well, it’s best to connect with a medical professional as you may be dealing with a sleep disorder like Sleep Apnea or Restless Leg Syndrome. (If so, don’t worry — there are many treatments and tools available, including sleep equipment, that may help.)

Are There Tools to Help Track Your Sleep?

Tracking your sleep is a helpful way for you, and your medical provider, to identify patterns that will help you improve your sleep schedule. The easiest and most accessible way to track your sleep is with a sleep diary, where you can keep a daily record of information related to your sleep patterns. Keeping a sleep diary can help you identify whether you’re getting enough sleep and how certain habits impact your sleep quality.[7] You can create your own sleep diary in a digital spreadsheet, a physical notebook, or even just the notes app of your phone. What sort of information should you be tracking? Here are a few common details you could consider tracking:

  • Your bedtime
  • How long it took you to fall asleep
  • How many times you woke up throughout the night
  • Whether you had alcohol or caffeine within six hours of bedtime
  • Whether you felt stressed or relaxed before bed
  • When you woke up in the morning

Developing Sustainable Sleeping Patterns

It can be hard to find a sleep routine that works best for you, and it may sometimes feel hard to prioritize amongst all the other things going on. However, making sure to get enough sleep – and high-quality, rejuvenating sleep at that – is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Focus on finding the amount of sleep that works best for you, and see if there are habits that you can integrate to improve the quality of your sleep. A good sleeping pattern will ensure that you wake up refreshed and with enough energy to take on the day. Your physical, emotional, and mental health will thrive as a result. 

[1] Journal of Sleep Research

[2] National Sleep Foundation

[3] Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School

[4] Nature and Science of Sleep Journal

[5] Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School

[6] Cleveland Clinic

[7] Mayo Clinic