Advertising

Published on June 29, 2021

How Much Sleep Do You Need? (Recommended Hours by Age)

How Much Sleep Do You Need? (Recommended Hours by Age)
Advertising

“I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”  This seems to be a popular mantra amongst the go-getters of the world. In fact, I’d be willing to wager you’ve heard of at least one highly successful person who prides themselves on their ability to consistently crush goals with as little as three or four hours of sleep per night.[1]

You might have made a similar statement yourself at times when life feels too chaotic or exhilarating to even think of cutting into productive wakeful hours to catch up on some Zzzzs. If others are succeeding with minimal sleep, then perhaps you can, too. Yet, you may continue to wonder, “how much sleep do I need to maintain high-achiever status without snoozing my life away?”

The key to answering this question is to find your own personal sweet spot that factors in your optimal restorative sleep duration, current lifestyle, and sustainable level of daily function.

In this article, I’ll discuss a simple 3-step process to explore and discover how much sleep you need to achieve the deceptively elusive trifecta of high performance, happiness, and health.

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

Step 1: Determine Your Target

Sleep health resources, including the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and SleepFoundation.org, lay out basic tables of how much sleep you need with recommended hours by age.[2][3]

The information varies ever so slightly from site to site, so for simplicity’s sake, I’ve decided to present it as follows:

Advertising

  • Ages 18 to 64: seven to nine hours per night
  • Ages 65+: seven to eight hours per night

These ranges may seem straightforward at first glance. However, when we attempt to integrate them into real life, they can end up feeling vague, which is less than helpful.

For example, let’s say you are an adult in the 18 to 64 age range. Your circumstances require that you get out of bed by 6 am each morning, so, according to these recommendations, you need to be asleep anywhere between 9 pm and 11 pm every night. Two hours difference might appear insignificant on paper, but when we are using this guideline to establish a sleep schedule, there’s actually quite a bit of wiggle room for personalized adjustment.

But how do you know what is the right bedtime for you?

When you are ready to be more deliberate and strategic with your sleep habits, there are some important questions to consider regarding your current bedtime. Do you choose according to a preconceived notion of what your bedtime should be? Do you decide based on how many tasks you could potentially complete during those two hours? Do you take a passive approach and just keep plugging away at to-dos until you start to doze off each night?

Next, ask yourself how well your existing routine (or lack thereof) has been working for you. Addressing this is the first step toward effective change. The following steps will help you to pinpoint your ideal number of sleep hours even further.

Step 2: Narrow Down Your Needs

Adding to the ambiguity of these sleep recommendation charts are the broad age ranges listed.

Advertising

Like many people, I am more in-tune with my sleep needs now than when I was younger. In my 20s, life was all about making rent, partying with friends, and clambering to figure out my place and purpose in an adult world that I felt ill-equipped to navigate. Now, in my 40s, my lifestyle revolves around homeschooling a teen and tween, cultivating my gifts and skills to enhance my career, strengthening the bonds of a two-decade relationship with my partner, and learning how to master the advanced adulting skills I used to think were for “old people.”

Although I probably did need more sleep than I was getting in early adulthood, the stresses and responsibilities of my present lifestyle require even more intentional rest and recovery to thrive in all I do. If you take a moment to reflect, you might just find that the same rings true for you.

Consider all of the elements involved in your current stage of life. Do you still have children at home? Are they younger (and, therefore, highly demanding of your time and energy), or more self-sufficient?

Maybe your own kids are grown and now you’re a caregiver for your grandchildren. Perhaps you don’t have kids at all. You’re a caretaker for your aging parents, or you are one of the more than 10 percent of multigenerational caregiving adults in America who are responsible for the simultaneous care of your kids and your parents. Interestingly, this particular segment of the population is known to sleep almost a half-hour less each night than others in the same age group.[4]

Whatever’s left of your attention is probably scattered between personal and professional growth endeavors, working to create security for your family’s future, and deepening the relationships that matter most to you.

It may be tempting to look at all of these duties collectively as a valid reason to opt for less sleep. After all, it is often our busiest seasons that preclude us from having space in our schedules for rest, right? I invite you to look at this from a different angle. Getting adequate restorative sleep supports your physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual well-being.[5]

Advertising

But you are not only responsible for that. Your well-being is paramount to sustaining the daily energy, performance, and patience required for showing up as your best self in every aspect of your life. When you consider the consequences of not getting sufficient sleep and assess honestly, it is easier to determine which end of the sleep range to aim for.

Step 3: Expose Sneaky Sleep Deprivation Symptoms

As you can see, guidelines are not always the rigid cookie-cutter rules we sometimes perceive or expect them to be. Instead, it can be beneficial to think of them as reference points that assist in creating your personal baseline.

With this in mind, how can you finetune even further? This is where a solid practice of self-awareness makes all the difference. Understanding how much sleep you need requires the ability to pay attention to your brain and body cues. These are sometimes extremely subtle. They can also be seemingly unrelated to sleep, so it takes commitment and a bit of patient curiosity to master.

Here are some signs that your current sleep regimen is not aligned with your needs:

  • Cravings for caffeine and/or carb-heavy foods (bread, cake, cookies, crackers, potatoes)
  • Increased appetite
  • Feeling cranky (either for no apparent reason, or more than seems rational)
  • Grogginess or feeling unrested upon waking
  • Forgetfulness or distractibility
  • Decreased inspiration or motivation
  • Lowered endurance during workouts or routine tasks
  • Daytime drowsiness

If you struggle with any of these symptoms, this is a clear indication that your sleep needs are not being met. After taking the first two steps toward finding your ideal amount of sleep, it’s time to practice maintaining your decided bedtime and adjust as needed.

Keeping a sleep journal can help you to create clarity around any persistent symptoms. On a positive note, it can also spotlight improvements that are starting to develop. Either way, tracking is an important tool for dialing in your ideal amount of sleep.

Advertising

Bottom Line

It is estimated that sleep-related problems affect 50 to 70 million Americans of all ages and socioeconomic classes.[6] These issues can range from major health disorders, like sleep apnea and chronic insomnia, to benign symptoms that we tend to accept as just a regular part of life as we age. However severe or mundane, these nuisances can negatively impact our productivity, mood, happiness, accomplishment, interpersonal skills, and overall quality of life.

By finetuning the professional guidelines in accordance with our own unique needs, we can ensure that we won’t succumb to the pitfalls associated with not getting as much sleep as we need.

Want to know one more perk to proactively crafting our optimal sleep routines? Adequate quality sleep supports our longevity. Thus, by releasing the misguided ideal of pushing off sleep for when we die, we can rest assured we’re helping to postpone that undesired state of eternal slumber for as long as possible.

Learn More About Your Sleep Quality

Featured photo credit: Benjamin Combs via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leah Borski

Certified NeuroHealth Coach, specializing in Stress Management and Integrative Wellness Lifestyle for Work-Life Balance

How Much Sleep Do You Need? (Recommended Hours by Age) How Physical Inactivity Affects Your Energy Levels 7 Natural Sleep Remedies (Backed by Science) 9 Benefits of Napping (Backed by Science) 3 Common Causes Of Stress That Are Depleting Your Energy

Trending in Sleep & Rest

1 How to Sleep Through the Night and Get Good Rest 2 Why You Keep Waking Up in the Middle of the Night (And How to Fix It) 3 10 Best Sleep Masks for a Good Night’s Sleep 4 10 Deadly Effects Lack of Sleep Can Cause 5 How Much Sleep Do You Need? (Recommended Hours by Age)

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 22, 2021

How to Quit Drinking for a Healthier Body and Mind

How to Quit Drinking for a Healthier Body and Mind
Advertising

Has anyone ever suggested that you should cut down on your drinking or, for that matter, quit drinking alcohol out of your life completely? Have you ever felt that way on your own, especially after waking up super late for work with a pounding headache and blurred vision the day after a long night out on the town or getting down in the club?

Let me start by saying that I am not trying to demonize the consumption of adult alcoholic beverages. I’m the last person to judge you or anyone else for making a conscious decision to drink alcohol responsibly. Instead, as a licensed mental health counselor and certified master addiction professional, I have a professional responsibility to help my clients take greater control over their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors by gaining insight into the underlying issues that have negatively impacted their lives.

Is Drinking Alcohol a Problem for You?

First things first. Is drinking alcohol a problem for you? Since alcohol has been known to impair your judgment, you may not even realize that it is.

According to the 5th Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or more commonly referred to as the DSM-5, the universal reference guide used by mental health and addiction professionals to diagnose all substance abuse and mental health disorders, alcohol use disorder is defined as a “problematic pattern of alcohol use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress.”

It is manifested by experiencing at least two of the following symptoms within a 12-month period:[1]

  1. Alcohol consumed in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended
  2. Persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control the use of alcohol
  3. A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain, use, or recover from the effects of alcohol.
  4. Craving or a strong desire or urge to use alcohol
  5. Recurrent alcohol use results in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, and home.
  6. Continued alcohol use despite persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused by or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol
  7. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced.
  8. Recurrent alcohol use in physically hazardous situations
  9. Alcohol use is continued despite the knowledge of having persistent or hazardous physical or psychological problems likely caused by alcohol.
  10. Tolerance is present in which there is a need for markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication.
  11. Withdrawal, as evidenced by experiencing any combination of both physical and psychological discomfort following cessation after a period of heavy or prolonged alcohol use.

Nevertheless, just because you may not meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder, does not mean that you should not quit drinking alcohol. Although you may appear to be able to handle your alcohol on the outside, excessive alcohol use has been shown to negatively impact your overall health. Just like nicotine, alcohol is a habit-forming drug.

Advertising

However, unlike the stimulant properties found within nicotine, alcohol is classified as a depressant. It essentially slows down your central nervous system’s ability to effectively process feelings, emotions, and information.

With your defenses down, alcohol can make you feel more emotionally sensitive, sad, vulnerable, and depressed—for example, with regard to bringing back feelings associated with past traumas that you may have worked hard to overcome, or perhaps those in which you may have never had the time to properly address at all.

A study published by the National Institute for Health showed that alcoholics were somewhere between 60 and 120 times more likely to complete suicide than those free from psychiatric illness.[2]  Additionally, although having a couple of cocktails may make it easier for you to talk to a stranger as it lowers your inhibitions, it can also negatively impact your judgment—for example, by drinking and driving.

Additionally, alcohol has been known to make people more argumentative and belligerent, especially when they are confronted about the issue. A study published by the World Health Organization estimates that approximately 55% of domestic violence perpetrators were drinking alcohol prior to the assault and that women who were abused were 15 times more likely to abuse alcohol.[3]

When it comes to your physical health, there is an overabundance of ways in which excessive drinking is bad for your body. Since alcohol provides little or no nutritional value and is often combined with high-calorie mixers, it can lead to obesity.

People who drink alcohol in excess are generally less physically active, thereby increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.[4] Additionally, excessive drinking inflames the pancreas, making it more difficult for it to secrete insulin, thereby contributing to diabetes.

Advertising

Furthermore, excessive alcohol use can lead to liver damage, such as cirrhosis, in which the body is unable to properly remove waste products from the blood leaving the stomach and intestines. As a result, people with cirrhosis of the liver may appear jaundiced, swollen, and confused. A recent study published by Forbes indicated that even moderate drinking tracked with decreases in both grey and white brain matter, essentially interfering with brain functioning as it alters the brain’s chemistry and composition.[5]

With all of that being said, if you feel that alcohol use may be getting in the way of being able to maintain a healthy lifestyle, I recommend that you take a moment to consider these six simple ways to quit drinking alcohol to achieve a healthier mind, body, and soul.

1. Stay Away From the Bottle

If you happen to be a recreational drinker—someone who has a couple of drinks here and there, every so often or once in a blue moon—and you want to quit drinking alcohol altogether, the easiest way to quit drinking alcohol is just to stay as far away from it as possible. I mean it’s really that simple, isn’t it? Not so fast! Alcohol is everywhere, from the supermarket to the soccer field.

Even with all of the potential risks, people continue to drink alcohol at any number of social gatherings, business meetings, and even religious ceremonies, activities that are in many cases almost impossible to avoid completely. Sporting events, for example, all seem to be sponsored by sleek, sexy, and, at the same time, remarkably socially conscious breweries.

Nevertheless, although alcohol is everywhere, the next time you go out with your friends to your favorite hotspot, try ordering tonic water with lime, or perhaps even the virgin version of your favorite cocktail instead—like a pina colada or strawberry daiquiri—so you can keep the umbrella and just get rid of the rum.

2. Set Expectations With Others

Unless you are prepared to cut ties with all of your friends and family members who like to drink alcohol, be prepared to set certain expectations with them when it comes to drinking when you are around them.

Advertising

First, let them know that you are not judging them but rather, making a personal choice not to drink alcohol. Then, set clear boundaries with them by letting them know whether or not you are comfortable being around them when they choose to drink. Remember, you are the most powerful gatekeeper of everyone and everything that surrounds you.

3. Own Your Issues!

The first step to quitting alcohol—or quitting the use of any habit-forming mood-altering substance for that matter—is to first admit that you have a problem with it, whatever the problem may be. I suggest that you first start by identifying how alcohol has either already affected your life, or how it could do so in the future if you continue to drink.

Take a personal inventory of everything important to you, such as your relationship with your family and your faith, as well as the condition of your health and your personal finances. Then, carefully consider how alcohol could be negatively impacting each item. Set aside some personal quality time to journal all of your thoughts in black and white to help you see the situation from a more objective point of view. Take it from me, it’s not easy to admit that you have a problem, but once you do, it can be a very liberating feeling.

4. Ask for Help

Once you have admitted to yourself that you have a problem with alcohol, you can then admit it to someone else, preferably someone who can help you process your feelings and concerns in a safe, constructive, and non-judgmental way.

Although family and friends may be very supportive, you may want to work with a therapist who can offer a more objective perspective along with a variety of tools to not only help you stay sober but also process and ultimately work through any underlying issues that may have caused you to drink in the first place.

Furthermore, in the unfortunate event that you have become physically dependent on alcohol to make it through the day, medical supervision may be needed to help you manage any combination of withdrawal symptoms, including restlessness, anxiety, chills, nausea, and even potentially life-threatening seizures.

Advertising

5. Join a Support Group

When you are trying to defend yourself against a cunning, baffling, and powerful opponent, there is usually strength in numbers. Beyond reaching out for professional help to address any underlying issues that may be holding you or anyone else back from staying sober, joining a support group is an excellent way to strengthen your foundation for recovery from alcoholism.

Although caring friends and family may be able to provide you with unconditional love, members of your support group may also be able to offer a much more objective step-building approach for long-term sobriety. Fortunately, there are support group meetings available all over the world, you just have to look for one that meets your needs.

6. Make a Commitment to Stay Sober

After you have owned your issues and learned the tools to stay sober, the next step is to commit yourself to actually staying sober. Breaking a bad habit does not usually happen overnight. Typically, it’s a process that requires time and tenacity. There is no exception when it comes to quitting alcohol.

Nevertheless, many people find themselves frantically trying to stop drinking after any combination of unfortunate, uncomfortable, and sometimes unforgiving events, such as being fired from a job, having an argument with a loved one, getting caught driving under the influence, and experiencing medical complications associated with alcohol use, such as liver failure.

Final Thoughts

In the end, If you truly want to quit drinking, make an open and honest commitment to yourself that you will not only put away the bottle but that you will also take out the tools every day to stay mentally, physically, and spiritually sober.

More on How to Quit Drinking

Featured photo credit: Zach Kadolph via unsplash.com

Advertising

Reference

Read Next