Sleep is the new status symbol. Gone are the days when CEOs bragged about restless nights or quipped “you can sleep when you’re dead.” Now that we’re actually studying it, all evidence shows that sleep is necessary for health and happiness. It makes you more focused, alert, and creative - so employers are eager to have a well-rested workforce to maximize productivity. On the personal side, studies have linked sleeplessness to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and more. So if you needed more of an excuse to get rested, now you have it! But what’s the right amount of sleep? Does it change with your age? Can you make it up on the weekends or with naps? We’re here to lay out the answers so you can start planning to get to bed on time!
How much sleep do you need?
It depends. You probably don’t want to hear that, but everyone is different. The first thing you need to do is pay attention to how much sleep you’re getting now and see if it’s enough. How to tell? Even if you’re fully functioning and feel “fine”, there are signs you’re not getting the right amount of rest (like craving junk food, having memory troubles, or moodiness).
Recent studies have also changed the recommended ranges of sleep time. Here are the current ranges by age:
- Newborns of 0-3 months should be getting 14-17 hours each day (if only it was all at once!).
- Infants of 4-11 months should get 12-15 hours each day.
- Toddlers (1-2 years) should have 11-14 hours.
- Preschoolers, ages 3-5, need 10-13 hours of sleep.
- Kids age 6-13 need 9-11 hours.
- Teenagers (they start this at 14 and go through 17) should have 8-10 hours of sleep.
- Young adults and adults from age 18 through 64 need 7-9 hours of sleep a night.
- Older adults (65+) need a little less at 7-8 hours of sleep.
Sleep for kids.
Looking at the recommended sleep times for kids – that’s a lot of hours spent snoozing! That’s because it’s important that children get enough sleep for their health and growth. Not to mention it’s better to start good habits now!
There used to be a myth that naps should be discouraged because kids wouldn’t sleep as well at night. That’s not true – studies (there's always a study!) show that children who nap are in better moods and then have better sleep when they go down for the night. In fact, naps may be needed to provide enough sleep to meet their daily goals.
So how to (try) to make sure your kids get enough sleep? Just like adults: stick to a routine, put away the screens an hour before bed, and keep their room a relaxing place that’s comfortable and not over-stimulating. If you can, try to let your child get to sleep on their own, so that when your schedule is disrupted it doesn’t lead to less sleep for them. When appropriate, discourage them from getting up at night so they don’t need help getting back to bed.
What about seniors?
Another sleep myth is that older adults need as much sleep. That seems to be true – but only by one hour! So if you’re in this age range, you should still leave plenty of time for snoozing. Unfortunately, many seniors have difficulty sleeping, which probably led to the belief that it’s just a fact of life that you’ll get less sleep when you’re older.
Researchers found that people who didn’t have serious medical barriers to getting good rest slept longer and better than people in their age range without those issues. So it’s not the age that’s causing the lack of sleep. At any age, healthy habits like diet, exercise, and routine are important for helping with sleep, and unlike kids, seniors should try not to nap.
It’s also very important to have any medical issues addressed. Of course for the sake of getting help with the issue itself, but those are the things preventing good quality sleep. One of the great things about an adjustable bed is that it helps with a lot of different health issues, and can make a big difference in easing them so you can get better rest.
Can you make up sleep?
A lot of people think that if you don’t get enough sleep during the week, you can make it up on the weekends. Unfortunately, that appears to be a myth. Research has shown that 1-2 nights of good sleep can’t make up for long stretches of bad sleep. In fact, just like in diets, yo-yoing like this can be bad for your health.
What about naps? It sounds like a great idea to add in some snoozes here and there to make your sleep quota. But, while naps can be helpful, we’re just not built so that short bursts of sleep are enough. You’re not getting the full benefit of your sleep cycle. If you DO nap, though, try for 20 minutes. Going 30-60 minutes puts you in that groggy state because you’re in the stage of sleep where your brain waves have slowed down.
Can you have too much sleep?
It seems like the more sleep you get, the better it would be, but we’re going to have to bust this myth too: it’s also not good to get too much sleep. Sleeping for more than 10 hours a day can be just as damaging as not getting enough – the problems are very similar to not being well-rested. Longer sleep is also usually a sign that something else is wrong, because your body naturally wakes up when it’s rested. Those extra hours mean the sleep you are getting isn’t good, potentially because of health issues, or can be a symptom of something like depression.
How to tell if you’re getting quality sleep.
Just lying in bed isn’t enough. To feel the benefits, the time you spend “sleeping” actually should be in quality sleep. What does that mean? Guidelines by the National Sleep Foundation say that you can tell if you slept well if you fell asleep in 30 minutes or less (60 for seniors), only wake up once (or twice for older people), stay awake for less than 20 minutes (30 minutes if you’re over 65), and are actually asleep for 85% of the time you’re in bed.
If you’re getting the right amount of sleep, but you’re still experiencing the symptoms of lack of rest, you’re probably not getting good quality sleep. Start healthy sleep habits and routines, including leaving yourself enough time for those 7-9 hours, and address any physical issues that may be waking you up at night. That includes your bed! If your bed isn’t comfortable, you won’t be either, and it may be time for a trip to the store to switch things up.