How Many Hours Of Sleep Is Enough?
Or, rephrased, how many hours can I get away with sleeping so I'm firing on all cylinders the next day but can still squeeze in a few hours of Netflix at night?
We've all heard the standard answer - eight hours. But almost none of us manage to actually ever clock this. Let alone seven. So where does that seemingly artbitrary figure come from – and do we need to be worried if we don’t hit it?
Dr Andrew Bagshaw, co-director of the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Human Brain Health, reckons “six hours sleep is a sleep-deprived condition. Because for nearly everybody, that’s not enough sleep. There are some people who say they can have four to five hours and feel fine, but that’s pretty unusual.”
And apparently the experts are pretty divided on what is enough - one camp says there’s a recommended duration amount of seven to eight hours per night. And there’s another camp that says six or more hours. The NHS keeps it broad with a suggested 6-9 hour window.
It's important to know why. Apart from resting, if you clock between those hours, cardiovascular disease risks go down, flu and cold incidents go down, mood is improved, anxiety and irritability levels go down and you're more equipped to make decisions.
On the flip-side, not getting enough (or too much - with 10 hours per night and more) sleep can be seriously damaging for your health long-term, including a disrupted immune system, weight gain and long-term mood disorders like depression and anxiety. It can also increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure – ultimately leading to an early death. Yikes.
So,clearly, there is no one size fits all with this topic. Also - our sleep requirements change as we get older. See below for the National Sleep Foundation's recommendation:
Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours each day
Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours each day
Toddlers (1-2 years old): 11-14 hours each day
Preschoolers (3-5 years old): 10-13 hours each day
School age children (6-13 years old): 9-11 hours each day
Teenagers (14-17 years old): 8-10 hours each day
Younger adults (18-25 years old): 7-9 hours each day
Adults (26-64 years old): 7-9 hours each day
Older adults (65+ years old): 7-8 hours each day
But while guidelines are useful, there comes a point where obsessing over sleep can actually scupper our chances of a good night’s kip (called orthosomnia, which I will cover in another blog post).
If that’s the case, should we just forget everything we know and go back to basics? In short, listening to our bodies rather than trying desperately to stick to advice - i.e. going to bed when you are tired and waking up when you feel well-rested (if you have that luxury)? Maybe.
Nina Clark,founder of Nightire