According to the Sleep Foundation, 35.2 percent of adults in the United States report getting less than seven hours of sleep per night. Do we really know where this number came from though? It has become common knowledge that adults need anywhere from seven to eight hours of sleep, but where is the science to back up these numbers?
According to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), and the Sleep Research Society (SRS), they’ve all used a modified RAND/UCLA Appropriateness Method process to develop a consensus recommendation for the amount of sleep needed to promote optimal health in adults.
The sleep science is contingent on a panel of subjects and research about sleep duration and positive health outcomes. Some studies based on different ages can take up to nine months to complete, though in extreme cases among obese individuals, this could take years.
The data has shown that from the ages 18 and up, we should aim for seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Proper amounts of sleep have been shown to improve brain function, reduce stress, increase physical and mental performance, boost immunity, and combat obesity.
While these expert recommendations are undoubtedly a motivating factor in getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night, some of the negative side effects of too little sleep might give you even more of a reason to turn the lights off earlier than usual.
“For adults, getting less than seven hours of sleep a night on a regular basis has been linked with poor health, including weight gain, having a body mass index of 30 or higher, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and depression,” says Eric J. Olson, M.D.for Mayo Clinic.
Getting seven to eight hours of sleep per night consistently can improve your mood, attention, and act as a preventative measure for many illnesses. Increased sleep has been shown to lead to a healthier gut which is the power house that is linked to weight loss and immunity.
Quality vs. Quantity: Benefits of a Good Night’s Rest
Which is better? Eight hours of tossing and turning? Or four hours of deep, restful sleep? Before we close our eyes and drift off to dreamland, we don’t actually know what our sleep quality is going to be like.
A study published by the National Library of Medicine bases sleep quality on measures of health, well-being, and sleepiness. A nonclinical population reporting an average seven to eight hours of sleep per night was tested.
The study concluded that among subjects sleeping an average of seven hours a night, average sleep quality was better related to health, satisfaction with life, and minimal feelings of tension, depression, anger, fatigue, and confusion than average sleep quantity.
Based on this study, these results indicate that healthcare professionals should focus on sleep quality in addition to sleep quantity in their efforts to understand the role of sleep in daily life.
Now that we know sleep quality trumps all, there are indicators that can help you understand the level of quality you get each night.
Some indicators of diminished sleep quality include, but are not limited to:
- Taking more than 30 minutes to fall asleep after you get into bed.
- Regularly waking up more than once per night.
- Lying awake for more than 20 minutes when you wake up in the middle of the night.
- Feeling more stressed out, emotionally exhausted, or angrier than usual.
There can be many factors that cause poor sleep quality or sleep deprivation. Some of these include stress, poor habits, difficulty ending your day, or even too much screen time before bed. Making deep sleep a priority can be the best way to help improve your sleep quality.
The Importance of Deep Sleep
The deep sleep stage is one of the key factors that make up good sleep quality. Deep sleep is the stage that makes you feel energized and refreshed upon waking up. It is when both your body and brain waves slow down.
Waking up in the middle of your deep sleep cycle can result in moodiness, irritability and feeling groggy. There are online tools that can help you determine when to fall asleep based on the time you need to get up, so you can get a better quality rest. This helps you maximize your rapid-eye-movement (REM) and non-REM cycles, ultimately improving overall sleep.
The stages of sleep are divided by REM and non-REM cycles, and throughout the night you go through those two stages in 90-minute intervals. Deep sleep comes into play in the final stages of non-REM sleep.
Making sure you’re getting enough quality deep sleep every night is beneficial for your overall health and well-being. Lack of proper sleep can result in serious health conditions or even sleep disorders such as sleepwalking.
Revenge Bedtime Procrastination
Have you ever wondered why you feel extremely tired during the day, but once you’re snuggled in bed with your laptop or phone you’re wide awake for hours? The fairly new physiological phenomenon known as revenge bedtime procrastination is a possible answer to this question. Revenge Bedtime Procrastination is a practice many take part of but do not even know it.
Revenge bedtime procrastination is when we sacrifice sleep for leisure time at the end of a busy day. Delaying your sleep in order to do things you enjoy sounds like a great compromise, but research shows us the downside of getting fewer hours of sleep.
According to studies, students and women are affected the most by this phenomenon. While it is difficult to change your work or school schedule to fit in more leisure time during the day, keeping a daily routine can help combat revenge bedtime procrastination.
How to Get the Sleep You Need
Now you know how much sleep you need, and why sleep quality is so important, what is the best practice for getting the sleep you need every night?
Here are a few sleep tips that can help you make small but mighty changes to your routine:
- Choosing quality bedding is a great way to start.
- Look for a mattress that conforms to your body and makes you feel good.
- Choosing the right sheets can help too.
Avoid light distractions, such as your phone, before bed. Consider investing in a sleep mask that can help you fall asleep faster and get the deep sleep you deserve.
Don’t forget to optimize your sleep schedule in a way that works for you. Always aim to go to sleep and wake up at the same time everyday even if you don’t have to to stabilize your biological rhythm.
Crafting the perfect pre-bedtime routine will help too; however, it can be difficult to not let this stage spiral into a revenge bedtime procrastination situation. Remember to wind down for at least 30-minutes (or more if needed) and do a task that relaxes you, such as reading or even doing some light stretches.
Seven to eight hours of sleep is ideal for the average adult, but the quality of sleep trumps all. It’s important to understand the long term benefits associated with good sleep, as well as, the shortcomings of not getting enough rest.
Improving your immunity, reducing stress, being more alert, and boosting your metabolism are some of the many benefits that make it worth getting into bed earlier. Sleep is the best way for our body to repair itself. A good night’s sleep allows the body to reset efficiently each day and will absolutely help you feel your best.
Frequently Asked Questions
According to the CDC, our sleep needs by age can be broken down into the following categories:
- Infants who are three months or younger need 14 to 17 hours of sleep
- Older infants who are four months to a year old need 12 to 16 hours of sleep
- Toddlers who are one to two years old require 11 to 14 hours of sleep
- Children who are three to five years old need 10 to 1 hours of sleep
- Older children who are six to 12 years old require 9 to 12 hours of sleep
- Teenagers who are 13 to 18 years old need 8 to 10 hours of sleep
- Adults up to age 60 need 7 or more hours of sleep
- Adults between 61 to 64 years old need 7 to 9 hours of sleep
- Adults who are 65 years old need 7 to 8 hours of sleep
The total sleep time recommended for newborns to children 5 years of age includes nap time, along with time spent asleep at night.
In adults, oversleeping is typically defined as spending nine or more hours asleep. Reasons for why a person may have trouble with oversleeping can vary, from hypersomnia to depression. If you’re concerned with how much you’re sleeping, speak with your doctor or a sleep specialist to determine possible causes and treatments.
No, five or six hours of sleep isn’t a sufficient amount to get every night. The average adult needs seven or more hours of sleep.
However, it’s also important to note that any sleep is better than no sleep at all. If you’re having trouble falling asleep one night, it can be counterproductive to worry about whether or not you’ll get enough sleep. So the occasional night where you only get five or six hours of sleep is okay.
If you’ve spent around 20 minutes in bed and haven’t drifted off, move out of bed and go to another part of your home. Keep the lights dim and try to do something relaxing, such as reading a chapter of a favorite book, listening to soothing music or making a cup of herbal tea. Avoid powering up an electronic device. When you feel sleepy, return to bed.
Sleep needs are specific to each person, but a typical adult needs between 7 to 9 hours a night. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you can improve your sleep by making sure your bedroom is cool and dark to promote sleep. Also try to fall asleep and wake up at the roughly same time, even on your days off. Consistency is the key to a healthy sleep schedule. Add consistent sleep hygiene protocol to your bedtime routine, giving your body the time it needs to prepare for sleep.
A good sign that you’re getting enough sleep is feeling refreshed in the morning and waking up without an alarm clock.