How Much Sleep Do I Need?

February 9, 2024 · John Gallagher

How Much Sleep Do I Need Each Night?

Getting the right amount of sleep each night is one of the best ways you can protect your body from illness. Just as easily, inadequate sleep can leave you vulnerable to a wide variety of health concerns.

Sleep deprivation — an inadequate amount of sleep that causes various health and performance issues — is a surprisingly common challenge. An estimated 33% of American adults report not getting enough rest on a regular basis. 40% of that same population reports inadvertently falling asleep in the middle of the day.

Let’s explore how to establish how much sleep you need, how to avoid oversleeping and undersleeping, and how you can implement a sleep hygiene routine to improve the regularity of your rest patterns.

How Much Sleep is Enough Sleep?

Different people require different amounts of sleep.

The amount of sleep you need can change based on factors like your age, diet, and lifestyle. For example, your body might need more sleep than normal to fully recover after strenuous exercise. You may also notice yourself sleeping longer while fighting a cold or illness.

Sleep specialists typically consider a wide range of factors when determining how much sleep you need each night. Here are the suggested sleep time ranges for younger people, as suggested by the CDC in coordination with the National Sleep Foundation and American Academy of Sleep Medicine:

  • Newborn (0-3 months): 14-17 hours of sleep per day
  • Infant (4-12 months): 12-16 hours of sleep per day
  • Toddler (1-2 years): 11-14 hours of sleep per day
  • Preschool (3-5 years): 10-13 hours of sleep per day
  • School age (6-12 years): 9-12 hours of sleep per day
  • Teenager: (13-18 years): 8-10 hours of sleep per day

Younger age ranges, from newborn through preschool age, will typically take naps during the day. Total suggested sleep durations should include both nighttime and daytime sleep, including naps.

Adults also require varying amounts of sleep, according to age:

  • Adult (18-60 years): 7 or more hours of sleep per day
  • Adult (61-64 years): 7-9 hours of sleep per day
  • Adult (65 years and older): 7-8 hours of sleep per day

It’s important to note that sleep duration isn’t the only factor that impacts sleep quality. For example, irregular sleep patterns can cause daytime fatigue even if you get the recommended hours of sleep per night. Snoring and other sleep disorder symptoms could indicate a deeper challenge than the length of your nightly sleep episodes. Be sure to consult a licensed health professional if you notice one or more symptoms that compromise your sleep experience.

What Happens if I Don’t Get Enough Sleep?

There’s a reason why sleep is one of the most important ways to protect your health. A sufficient amount of rest is often the difference between health and illness. Sleep affects physical health in various ways, supporting systems like respiration, digestion, and immunity. It also helps heal the scrapes and bruises you might experience on a daily basis.

You might notice several factors that positively, or negatively, impact your quality of sleep. These factors can include:

  • Work schedule: Irregular work hours, particularly in a constantly-changing schedule, make it more difficult for your body to identify sleep and wake times.
  • Diet: A highly-nutritious diet rich in vitamins and minerals can create more effective sleep episodes, allowing your body to heal and recharge.
  • Physical exercise: Proper daily workouts can help alleviate symptoms of sleep conditions and encourage your body into natural energy production processes while you rest.
  • Location: Some locations feature more, or less, light exposure each day. High or low temperatures can also affect your sleep routine.
  • Sleep environment: Pillows, sheets, and other elements of your sleep environment can either guide the body into a restful state or keep you awake past a normal rest time. 
  • Stress and anxiety: Anxiety is one of the biggest impediments to sleep. Racing thoughts, stress, and other mental health complications can prevent the onset of sleep and disrupt your circadian rhythm.
  • Electronic devices: Phones, tablets, and computers can all delay the onset of sleep, particularly if they emit blue light.

If you don’t get enough sleep each night, you don’t arm your body with the energy it needs to support these and other systems. You might also notice irregularities in your mood, speech, and mental clarity.

Here are a few more negative consequences of inadequate sleep:

  • Daytime fatigue: When you don’t get enough sleep at night, your body is left without the energy it needs during the daytime. As a result, you might feel especially tired or drowsy during the day, particularly after you eat or sit. This fatigue can affect your ability to think clearly and accomplish tasks effectively.
  • Hormonal imbalances: Sleep helps to regulate hormone production and balance in the body. Without enough sleep, you might experience imbalances in hormones like cortisol (which impacts stress) and leptin (which impacts appetite).
  • Increased risk for chronic health conditions: A lack of sleep means your immune system does not receive the support it needs. This leaves your body more vulnerable to chronic conditions, and can also elevate your risk for inflammation, heart disease, and stroke.
  • Impaired social interactions: The mood shifts, hormonal imbalances, and irritability you might experience via a lack of sleep can also impact your social interactions. This can make you more prone to emotional reaction or overreaction, alongside an overall decrease in social well-being.

Insufficient sleep can be a major problem, one that can impact you and the people you interact with. However, oversleeping can affect your body in many of the same ways.

Is it Possible to Get Too Much Sleep?

Oversleeping — sleep episodes that last longer than are healthy or intended — also represents a sleep imbalance. Though the chronic condition of oversleep only affects an estimated 2% of people, as much as 55% of the population is known to oversleep at least once a week.

Several different possible factors can cause oversleeping. These typically include:

  • Digestive problems that prevent the onset of sleep.
  • Sleep apnea.
  • Anxiety and depression that create racing thoughts and other mental health complications.
  • Hyperthyroidism that can interrupt sleep episodes with feelings of irritability or nervousness.
  • Medication that interrupts your circadian rhythm as a byproduct of treatment.

A one-time oversleeping event isn’t always cause for medical concern. Perhaps you stayed awake later than normal, or you’re particularly excited or anxious about something occurring later that day. However, chronic oversleeping is a medical condition that requires diagnosis and treatment.

Consult your doctor if you suspect that you are oversleeping. During your appointment, your doctor or sleep specialist will typically ask questions about your sleep habits. They may ask about your dietary choices, caffeine consumption, smoking habits, alcohol use frequency, and exposure to blue light.

Depending on your answers, your doctor may schedule you for follow-up examinations. These examinations may involve blood tests, MRIs, sleep studies, electroencephalograms (EEGs), and computer tomography (CT) scans.

How Can I Protect My Sleep Time?

Protecting your sleep means protecting your sleep health — and that’s an all-day activity. You can protect your sleep in many different ways, including sleep journaling, sleep apps, and setting a constant daily routine. Protecting your sleep is a commitment that starts in the morning with a nutritious breakfast, one that fortifies your body with the energy it needs for the day. It concludes in the afternoon and evening, when you complete any tasks and preserve a healthy work-life balance.

Make Time for Exercise

Engaging in physical exercise offers a multitude of health benefits, including significant improvements in sleep quality and longevity. Whether it's light to moderate workouts or more intense sessions, exercise has the power to elevate your heart rate and trigger the release of "happy" hormones like serotonin and dopamine, which positively impact your well-being. Moreover, regular exercise aids in stress reduction, weight management, and the regulation of sleep disorders.

To promote better sleep, consider incorporating different types of workouts into your routine. Cardio exercises such as biking, walking, running, or swimming can quickly raise your heart rate and enhance the overall quality of your sleep. Strength training activities like weightlifting, resistance band movements, or bodyweight exercises like push-ups, sit-ups, and squats not only tone your muscles but also contribute to a sense of appropriate fatigue at the end of the day.

Yoga is another excellent option, connecting your mind and body through sleep-oriented poses that encompass breathing exercises, meditation, and deliberate movements. Practicing yoga in the evening can help you wind down and prepare for a restful sleep. Additionally, incorporating stretching routines focusing on areas such as the back, arms, legs, and head can relax your body and improve sleep posture.

If you enjoy the outdoors, consider hiking as a form of exercise. Exploring local trails and immersing yourself in natural sunlight not only strengthens your core, but also stretches your leg and arm muscles, and increases your overall flexibility. These physical benefits can contribute to better sleep quality as well.

Physical exercise is a powerful tool for improving sleep. Whether you choose cardio exercises, strength training, yoga, stretching, or hiking, incorporating regular workouts into your routine can have a positive impact on your sleep patterns and overall well-being.

Put Down Your Phone

The screens found on phones, tablets, computers, and televisions emit blue light, which is a portion of the light spectrum typically associated with sunlight. During the day, blue light plays a vital role in keeping us alert, awake, and ready for action. However, in the evening, exposure to blue light can disrupt our Circadian rhythm, tricking our bodies into believing it's still daytime and making it more challenging to fall asleep.

Fortunately, there's a simple remedy for this issue: powering off all electronic devices that emit blue light at least 60 minutes before bedtime. This practice helps establish clear boundaries between sleep and wake periods, allowing your body to recognize and adapt to the transition. Additionally, it assists in calming your body by eliminating any stimulation from the screen itself, whether it's from watching a movie, television show, playing a video game, or engaging with other forms of media.

Use the Right Mattress

Finding the right bedding can be a challenge, but it’s also one of the most important things you can do to improve sleep quality.

Here’s the good news: we’ve taken care of the hard part for you.Our patented bedMATCH sleep diagnostic program provides mattress recommendations based on individual measurements like your height, weight, and body type.

Take the five-minute bedMATCH quiz to satisfy your first step toward the rest you deserve.