The three most uttered words in the English language just may be: “I’m so tired.” Americans are chronically sleep-deprived, according to many studies and surveys. And, except for babies and toddlers, sleep deprivation is found in people of all ages.
The National Sleep Foundation, a group of professionals, patients and others concerned with improving sleep, is promoting more shut-eye time. The foundation recently joined with a multidisciplinary group of health experts to produce new recommendations for appropriate sleep duration. The report increases the amount of sleep needed for most age groups beyond traditional recommendations, and also includes the first-ever sleep recommendation for people ages 65 and older.
“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.
Summary of the new recommendations
Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours a day (from 12-18)li>
Infants (4-11 months):Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours a day (from 14-15)
Toddlers (1-2 years):Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours a day (from 12-14)
Preschoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours a day (from 11-13)
School age children (6-13): 9-11 hours a day (from 10-11)
Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours a day (from 8.5-9.5)
Younger adults Younger adults (18-25): 7-9 hours a day (new age category)
Adults (26-64): 7-9 hours a day (no change)
Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours a day (new age category)
Sleep is not only important to how you feel and think. According to Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine, lack of sleep makes a big impact on long-term health. Those who struggle with getting enough sleep are more likely to experience:
Heart disease and hypertension
Type 2 Diabetes
Infections (due to a sub-optimal immune function)
Depression and other mood disorders
Shortened life expectancy
Unfortunately, according to recent surveys, 28 percent of Americans say they don’t get enough sleep at night. In fact, the CDC reported 30 percent of civilian workers and 44 percent of night shift workers in the United States sleep less than six hours per night.
It’s true, however, that not everyone has the same sleep needs. Some people seem to function fine on a few hours a night while others require 10 hours to feel their best. The new guidelines acknowledge this individual variation.
The best advice is for each person to create his or her own sleep schedule that is within “a healthy range,” says David Cloud, chief executive officer of the National Sleep Foundation. Don’t forget to discuss your sleep needs and problems with your doctor, he adds.
What about naps?
People should always aim for adequate nighttime sleep. Night is when your body is programmed to perform many biological functions needed to maintain stable health. However, if you need a nap, take a short one. That’s the conclusion of a new study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
French researchers studied a group of healthy, young-adult men who underwent sleep testing in a laboratory. The study showed, not surprisingly, that a poor night of sleep altered hormone levels that impact several important bodily functions, such as blood pressure and how the body processes sugar. But when the men were allowed a 30-minute nap after a poor night of sleep, their hormone levels rebounded to normal.
“Our data suggests a 30-minute nap can reverse the hormonal impact of a night of poor sleep,” said one of the study’s authors, Brice Faraut, PhD, of the Université Paris Descartes-Sorbonne Paris Cité in Paris, France. “Napping may offer a way to counter the damaging effects of sleep restriction by helping the immune and neuroendocrine systems to recover.”
The study suggests that night-shift workers and other people who can’t get a good night’s sleep should take short naps.