Question: How many hours of sleep are enough?
from Timothy Morgenthaler, M.D.
The amount of sleep you need depends on various factors — especially your age. Consider these general guidelines for different age groups:
Age group Recommended amount of sleep Infants 14 to 15 hours Toddlers 12 to 14 hours School-age children 10 to 11 hours Adults 7 to 9 hours
In addition to age, other factors may affect how many hours of sleep you need. For example:
- Pregnancy. Changes in a woman’s body during pregnancy can increase the need for sleep.
- Aging. Older adults need about the same amount of sleep as younger adults. As you get older, however, your sleeping patterns may change. Older adults tend to sleep more lightly and awaken more frequently during the night than do younger adults. This may create a need for or tendency toward daytime napping.
- Previous sleep deprivation. If you’re sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you need increases.
- Sleep quality. If your sleep is frequently interrupted or cut short, you’re not getting quality sleep — and the quality of your sleep is just as important as the quantity.
Although some people claim to feel rested on just a few hours of sleep a night, research shows that people who sleep so little over many nights don’t perform as well on complex mental tasks as do people who get closer to seven hours of sleep a night. Additionally, studies among adults show that getting much more or less than seven hours of sleep a night is associated with a higher mortality rate.
If you experience frequent daytime sleepiness, even after increasing the amount of quality sleep you get, consult your doctor. He or she may be able to identify any underlying causes — and help you get a better night’s sleep.