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Published on June 29, 2021

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

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

“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:

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  • 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.

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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]

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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.

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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

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Last Updated on October 7, 2021

Under the Weather? 13 Immune Boosting Foods for a Quick Recovery

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Under the Weather? 13 Immune Boosting Foods for a Quick Recovery

Immunity truly does encapsulate the entire physiology of a person.

When you target your immunity by eating a variety of immune boosting foods, then you really can improve your entire body, both physically and mentally.

The immune system of a human being involves all aspects of one’s physiology and one’s daily experience. Eating certain foods can boost your health in a variety of ways. Below I outline several foods that will get you back on track if you’re feeling under the weather.

In order to even broach the topic of foods good for one’s immune system, it’s important to consider all aspects of the human body and experience.

What I mean by the human experience is one’s day to day mood, energy levels, and many other factors that signify how one engages with themselves and the world around them.

Before indulging in these foods below, I suggest striving for consistency with diet, activity levels, rest, and incorporating the practice of meditation or spending time in nature as part of your daily routine as well.

If you’re ready to feel better, not just when you’re under the weather but all the time incorporate these foods in your diet regularly.

Be sure to stock up on these foods if you’re in need of a boost.

1. Water is a Wise Choice

Yes I know I’m starting things seemingly simple, but one of my most popular YouTube videos discusses the importance of water!

When I ask people how much water they drink a day, the majority of time the answer begins with ‘not enough’.

So if you know you don’t drink enough water, why continue this pattern of behavior?

Now if you’re one that does hit that 5+ and more (pending activity levels) 8oz glasses a day – good for you! Water is life, and that’s where I’ll leave it.

2. Eggs — The Most Complete Protein

Widely regarded as the universally most complete nutritional protein source, eggs are packed with Omega-3 Fatty Acids and 9 essential amino acids.

Egg whites are rich in Vitamins D/E/K, B2, B5, B6, B12, and minerals such as zinc, iron and copper.

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Meanwhile, egg yolks pack the calories and fats along with cholesterol, fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and lecithin.

It’s important to note that the average medium egg contains 76 calories, 7.5g protein, 5.1g fat, 1.4g sat fat – so consider this while integrating this near perfect super food in your next dish!

3. Raw Spinach Supports Immunity

This leafy green is a personal favorite of mine due to its versatility and great taste!

Spinach is loaded with vitamin C which helps fight cold, flu, and reinforce the immune system.

It’s also quite high in antioxidants and beta-carotene, which supports our immune system in fighting infection and viruses.

When enjoying this plentiful plant, do so raw. Its nutrients are best absorbed when the vegetable is raw; consider adding spinach as a fresh salad, rather than to a cooked dish, to reap the most immune system rewards.

4. Turmerics Benefit on T-Cells

Gaining popularity for its delicious taste, this powerful spice is also gaining notoriety for its anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin (which also creates the vibrant orange-yellow color).

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Immunology notes that curcumin activates the production of T-cells, which are of the primary cells fighting on behalf of your systems immunity. [1]

5. Garlic is Really Good for You

This popular food not only tastes great but packs quite a punch.

Garlic contains a compound called allicin, which boasts a variety of medicinal properties. Garlic is also not very calorie dense; 1 ounce yields about 42 calories with 1.8g protein and 9g carbs.

Garlic also boasts Vitamin C, B6, Fiber, and Manganese.

The properties mentioned above helps maintain healthy bones, prevent diabetes and epileptic seizures, regulate thyroid, combat osteoporosis, reduce inflammation, boost metabolism, improve cognitive function, and regulate glucose metabolism!

So, forget about garlic breath–eat this food in abundance!

6. Wild Salmon is Wonderful

A personal favorite of mine, wild Alaskan salmon is one of those super foods that covers all your nutrient bases!

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Salmon can be cooked a variety of delicious ways, and yields some of the highest immune system boosting benefits.

Salmon contains fish oil Omega-3’s, which protect against developing heart disease and heart attack. Oils contained within such fish are quite unique in that they have Omega-3 fatty acids that are not present in any other food.

Also consider that wild salmon contains (per 4oz) 128% Vitamin D, 95% Vitamin B12, 94% tryptophan, 62% selenium, 53% protein, 53% omega 3’s, 45% Vitamin B3, 37% phosphorus, 32% Vitamin B6, 19% choline, 14% potassium, and 8%(157) calories.

This is one of those super foods that you could stand to have in your diet several times per week. Beyond the incredible taste, its nutritional benefits make it well worth seeking out.

7. Essential Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Many home cooks consider this an essential ingredient in preparing dinner. But it’s also quite good for you!

Extra virgin olive oil is widely regarded as being a healthy addition to any kitchen, with modest amounts of Vitamins E and K and plenty of beneficial fatty acids.

Per 100g of olive oil you can expect 14% saturated fat, 73% Monounsaturated fat, 10% Omega-6, 1% Omega-3, 72%, and 75% Vitamin K.

It also boasts an impressive antioxidant profile. This includes the anti-inflammatory oleocanthal, as well as oleuropein, a substance that protects LDL cholesterol from oxidation.

8. Natural Greek Yogurt Has Many Benefits

When I talk about natural Greek yogurt, I mean the type that is not flavored in any way. Those added sugars won’t help boost immunity.

Many people have convoluted the immunity and health benefits of natural yogurt with the all too popular sugary treats that flood grocery stores. But it’s the plain stuff that’s the best to include in your diet.

Natural Greek yogurt not only goes great with many dishes, but it contains vast amounts of protein which will leave you feeling satisfied.

The reason why I’ve specified ‘Greek yogurt’ is because one cup of plain, low-fat conventional yogurt typically has 5 to 10 grams of protein, where Greek yogurt averages about 13 to 20 grams of protein.

Greek yogurt also contains essential probiotics (live microorganisms). These are bacteria microbes that help improve digestive function, the immune system, and overall gut health.

Add natural Greek yogurt to your diet, whether as a breakfast food, a substitute for sour cream, or as an addition to a healthy smoothie.

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9. Ginseng Tea — Chock Full of Ginsenosides

Ginseng tea’s primary health benefits are due to the naturally occurring chemicals called ginsenosides present in the root.

One of ginseng’s most widely understood benefits include it’s rich anti-cancer properties. [2]

Studies also indicate that people who drink ginseng tea have a lower risk of developing cancer.

Ginseng tea can also help relieve menstrual cramps, lower blood pressure, and improve brain function; and it has also been shown to help with sexual (erectile) dysfunction in men.

10. Green Tea Fights Aging

Just as powerful as ginseng tea, this extremely popular tea is rich in polyphenols that have effects like reducing inflammation and aiding in the fight against cancer.

Green tea is in fact 30% polyphenols, including large amounts of a catechin called EGCG. Catechins are natural antioxidants that aid in the prevention of cell damage and provide several other benefits.

EGCG, and substances like it can reduce the formation of free radicals in the body, helping protect cells and molecules from damage.

Free radicals such as these are commonly known to play a role in aging and all sorts of other diseases.

This wonderful also tea contains small quantities of minerals that are important for overall health, so it may be worth picking up some green tea when visiting your next local tea shop.

11. Dark Chocolate — The Delicious Superfood

Don’t get too excited with this one – everything in moderation, of course!

And I’m not just referring to any chocolate — I’m talking specifically about dark chocolate and cacoa nibs, which are both immune system boosting super foods.

We’ve already covered free radicals in this article, and dark chocolate is one of those wonderful super foods that helps fight against such free radicals.

It does this with its high antioxidant profile which is believed to neutralize free radicals and protect the body from their damage.

Dark chocolate’s antioxidants include vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals – helpful plant compounds. Much like other immune boosting foods on this list dark chocolate will also help balance cholesterol, blood pressure, and improve heart health, and cognitive function.

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You now have a healthy excuse to eat some dark chocolate; but, go for the lowest sugar and highest cocoa content varieties you can find to reap the most rewards.

12. Frozen Blueberries for All!

Personally I love adding frozen blueberries to smoothies; however, sometimes I’ll pop over to the freezer just to grab a small handful as a treat!

Frozen blueberries are loaded with antioxidants, which come from compounds called anthocyanins; these give blueberries their purple hue.

One really neat fact about the ice crystals that form when the berries are frozen is that they disrupt the structure of the plant tissue and make anthocyanins even more available – how cool is that? Talk about hacking blueberries!

Even if not frozen, blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant capacities among all fruits. They have been known to boost memory, cardiovascular system, and eyesight. The fruit also encourages a process called authophagy, or ‘cell clean-up’.

Berries in general (raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries) are extremely high on the ORAC scale. This means they contain some of the highest levels of antioxidants, which help to fight free radicals.

Frozen blueberries in particular may aid in defending colds and flu, as they are high in pterostilbene.

Next time you visit your local grocery store, consider how ideal blueberries are for your immune system and general health.

13. Raw Honey — A Natural Antioxidant

Saving the sweetest for last!

Pure natural raw honey follows the rest of this super food list with its antioxidant profile, however it also contains antibacterial and anti fungal properties.

Raw honey contains antioxidants called phenolic compounds, and certain types contain just as many antioxidants as fruits and vegetables.

Raw honey can help the body kill-off unwanted bacteria and fungus as it naturally contains hydrogen peroxide, which is a strong antiseptic. Raw honey also contains phytonutrients, commonly found in plants, which provides both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Aside from these wonderful benefits, raw honey can also aid with digestive issues, however this typically varies person to person.

Indulge in Better Health

But also, don’t forget to rest! When considering one’s overall health, it’s important to not only incorporate these immune boosting foods, but also to ensure adequate sleep, and take efforts to reduce stress.

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Eating these immunity boosting foods will enable you to take back control of your health and prevent illness… all while satisfying your cravings!

Featured photo credit: Joanna Kosinska via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Journal of Immunology: Curcumin
[2] NCBI: Ginseng for Fatigue

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