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, promotes more shut-eye time. Together with a multidisciplinary group of health experts, the foundation produced recommendations for appropriate sleep duration. The 2015 report increased the amount of sleep needed for most age groups beyond traditional recommendations and also included the first-ever sleep recommendation for people ages 65 and older.

Sleep Recommendations

  • Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours
  • Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
  • Preschoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours
  • School-age children (6-13): 9-11 hours
  • Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours
  • Younger adults (18-25): 7-9 hours
  • Adults (26-64): 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours

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
  • Obesity
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Infections (due to a sub-optimal immune function)
  • Depression and other mood disorders
  • Shortened life expectancy

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 best advice is for each person to create his or her own sleep schedule that is within a healthy range. Don’t forget to discuss your sleep needs and problems with your doctor.

 

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 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.

The study suggests that night-shift workers and other people who can’t get a good night’s sleep should take short naps.

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References

1. “Duration, timing and quality of sleep are each vital for health, performance and safety.” January 13, 2015. National Sleep Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.sleephealthjournal.org/article/S2352-7218(14)00013-8/fulltext

2. “Sleep and Disease Risk.” Healthy Sleep. Retrieved from http://www.healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/consequences/sleep-and-disease-risk. Accessed February 24, 2021.

3. “Napping reverses the salivary interleukin-6 and urinary norepinephrine changes induced by sleep restriction.” February 10, 2015. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25668196/

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