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In today’s hyper-connected world, sleep can easily devolve into an afterthought. Especially for folks with busy schedules, getting adequate sleep may feel like a challenge.
Sleep–but more importantly, getting enough sleep–is essential for a healthy life and functioning to the best of your ability. So, how much sleep do you need? In this article, we’ll cover the recommended amount according to your age, why these guidelines are important, the effects of not getting enough shut-eye, and how to sleep better.
12-16 hours (including naps)
11-14 hours (including naps)
10-13 hours (including naps)
7 or more hours
The guidelines above are from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. The information presented here may vary according to your personal health circumstances.
To achieve their recommendations for children , the AASM created a 13-person panel who reviewed 864 science-based articles in order to form their consensus. The guidelines reveal that kids need plenty more sleep than adults, which is understandable since the childhood and teen years are a time of significant growth. This is important information for parents, who can help make sure these guidelines are followed.
Learn More: How Much Sleep Do Kids Need
For adult sleep , the AASM established a 15-person panel that consisted of experts in sleep medicine and research. They reviewed a collection of science-based research on the connection between sleep and health to determine their results, which are aimed to promote peak health in adults.
Guidelines are meant to serve as expertly-reviewed tips on how to safely and appropriately do any task, and in this case, that task is sleep. These medical and health professionals based their votes on how different amounts of sleep affect cognitive, physical, emotional, and overall health. This means the experts feel these guidelines should allow you to be the healthiest you can be across all four categories.
When you don’t allow yourself enough rest, the results can affect your life and well-being in a variety of ways.
A lack of shut-eye can negatively impact your body’s immune system, which allows you to fight off diseases and remain healthy. Little to no sleep means you’re more susceptible to becoming sick  and could also delay the healing process.
When you sleep, your body produces multiple proteins, antibodies, and cells that aid immune system responses. However, sleep deprivation can cause the production of these protective elements to decrease, leaving you more vulnerable to illness. Even a common cold is no walk in the park, and continually feeling under the weather means you could find yourself using up precious sick days or missing major projects and events at school.
Do you notice you become grumpy when you don't get any sleep? There’s a reason for that.
Research shows us that people who don’t get enough rest have reported experiencing an increase in negative moods, including anger, irritability, sadness, and frustration.
Furthermore, sleep deprivation has been found to raise your risk of developing mood disorders  such as anxiety and depression. Mood disorders and sleeplessness are often connected since one can directly affect the other, which is why if you’re vulnerable to mood disorders, good sleep is critical.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of the ways the body responds to a lack of rest is by generating microsleeps. These are involuntary sleep episodes  that usually occur for a few seconds. While you appear to be awake and your eyes are open, your brain won’t process information.
Most folks who experience microsleeps cannot control them and aren’t aware they’re happening. These can be especially dangerous for those who are driving or work in a medical field like nursing.
Contemporary workplace culture might have you under the assumption that little sleep equates to being a hard worker, but the reality is that it could cost you your job. This is because sleep deprivation can impair workplace performance  and productivity.
It’s not just about crunching numbers, either. For those who have careers in which their ability to do their job well is a literal case of life and death, making time for proper rest is necessary.
Find Out More: 8 Most Sleep-Deprived Professions
Insufficient slumber could also make it difficult to focus and process information. According to a 2017 study, sleep deprivation could impact the ability to multi-task and impair job performance  in fields where attention is frequently divided, like air traffic controllers, medical jobs, and the military. They also found that a lack of focus was a common occurrence in driver crashes.
Another drawback to not getting enough rest is that it can diminish your decision-making skills. This can include everything from last-minute changes to effective communication. The research  goes on to say that this can specifically impact workers in emergency-type jobs who need these crucial decision-making skills in their profession.
While age is a significant factor in how much sleep you need, your DNA could also play a role. In a 2019 study , scientists looked at the genetic patterns of a three-generation family with members who naturally slept for less time. They discovered a mutated gene passed along in the family, and those exhibiting this gene had shorter sleep cycles.
Gender could also determine how much rest you need, as some medical and sleep experts say women require slightly more shut-eye than men.
Nagamalar Raju, M.D. states , “Women’s brains are wired differently from men’s, and they are more complex. Women are also multi-taskers, and they do a lot at once. Because they use more of their actual brain, they may need a little bit more sleep than men. It is still debatable, but some experts say that women need twenty more minutes on average than men usually need.”
Learn More: Is Too Much Sleep Bad?
Now that you have a better understanding of the potential consequences of sleep deprivation, you can be on the lookout for signs that you need more rest.
According to Doctor Ruth Benca with UCI Health , even the need for an alarm to wake up can be a sign you’re not getting enough rest. She adds that you should wake up on time naturally with the right amount of sleep.
When early morning meetings with your boss are on the line, though, you probably don’t want to leave things up to chance, so an alarm clock is sometimes a necessary backup plan. However, consistently sleeping through your alarm is also a warning sign that you didn’t get enough sleep during the night.
Are you constantly feeling tired throughout the day? You likely need more rest. Sleep deprivation is one of the common causes of daytime drowsiness .
Not only can this affect how you handle yourself, but daytime fatigue also leads to an increased risk of vehicle and work-related accidents.
Need more info? Read more about excessive daytime sleepiness here.
When you feel sleepy during the day, you might consider taking a nap. While health experts say naps can be a useful countermeasure  to the effects of sleep deprivation, they shouldn’t replace the sleep you need at night.
In the event you need an occasional nap to get you through the day, there is a right way to go out taking a snooze. Firstly, you should keep your naps short and limit them to 20 minutes at most. This is because longer naps are more likely to leave you feeling groggy.
Secondly, naps should be taken before 3:00 pm  so that they don’t interfere with your nighttime sleep. Thirdly, you should create a calm, dark space where you can rest well without distractions, and lastly, allow yourself some time to wake up before any quick-response activities.
Want to know more? Check out amazing benefits of power naps here.
Just as we need sleep to keep our minds strong, it also keeps our bodies strong. When you’re tired from a lack of rest, you’ll likely find that you have less physical strength  and stamina.
For athletes, this can be detrimental, and even for regular folks, you won’t be able to move or exercise as well as you normally could – or you may talk yourself out of physical activity altogether since you don’t have as much energy.
While all these signs are disturbing, perhaps most alarming is experiencing memory problems due to sleep deprivation. When you notice you have difficulty remembering things, it’s a good time to assess your sleep patterns and adjust accordingly.
It is also worth noting that while little rest can negatively affect your memory, so can too much. Harvard Health reports that the best way to keep your memory strong for later in life is to get the average recommended amount of sleep every night. 
The good news is there are steps you can take to improve your sleep, leading to a better quality of life and health.
When it’s not well-managed, stress from the day can keep you up at night. Creating a relaxing bedtime routine for yourself should help you wind down so that you’re more at ease to fall asleep better. One tip from the Mayo Clinic  is to write down your concerns and then set them aside for the next day.
Other helpful ways to relax are drinking tea, meditation, taking a bath, stretching, or reading a book. You can try different methods to see which one(s) work best for you and stick to them.
Reducing your caffeine and alcohol intake should also help you sleep better at night. While limiting caffeine might seem obvious, some folks might think alcohol, which is a depressant, could help them sleep better. Alcohol might make you feel tired, but experts say it could disrupt your sleep later in the night.
When you’re feeling hungry later in the evening, it might be tempting to consider a hearty meal, but going to bed stuffed could cause discomfort and keep you up. That being said, hunger pains could also stop you from sleeping well. In this case, you should have a light snack, which can curb your hunger without leaving you full.
Health professionals also suggest incorporating physical activity into your daily routine since regular exercise promotes better sleep. However, working out too close to bedtime isn’t recommended either and can be counterproductive.
They also say that spending time outside could help, so if your time is limited – and the weather permits – kill two birds with one stone and exercise outdoors. Walks, hikes, bike rides, and running are just a few examples of ways you can get in some physical activity outdoors.
One of the best ways to make sure you’re sleeping enough is to make time for it in your daily schedule. Decide on a set bedtime and wake-up time, then stick to that schedule every day – including weekends. In the event you need to adjust for the weekend, you shouldn’t veer from your regular schedule by more than an hour.
Your television, computer, or cell phone might seem like a nice way to wind down at the end of the day, but experts say you should ditch the screen time before bed. One reason is that the blue light from the screens can diminish your melatonin levels, which help control your sleep-wake cycle.
Technology can also keep your mind engaged or cause you distress that delays REM sleep . The ideal time to cut off access to tech devices is one hour before bed, but if you cannot do this, even just 30 minutes should help. Plus, once you are done with the electronics, that’s also the optimum time to begin your relaxing, tech-free bedtime routine.
 Shalini Paruthi MD, Lee J. Brooks MD, Carolyn D'Ambrosio MD, Wendy A. Hall PhD RN, Suresh Kotagal MD, Robin M. Lloyd MD, Beth A. Malow MD MS, et al., “Recommended Amount of Sleep for Pediatric Populations: A Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine”, Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 2016.
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 Tianna Hicklin Ph.D., “Gene identified in people who need little sleep.”, National Institutes of Health, 2019.
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 “Interim NIOSH Training for Emergency Responders: Reducing Risks Associated with Long Work Hours”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, April 1, 2020.
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