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How Much Sleep Should You Get? New Guidelines Break It Down By Age

This is the first time the National Sleep Foundation's recommendations have been age-specific.

[Photo: Flickr user Sarah]

If you’re anything like me, you agonize over sleep: How little is too little? Is there something wrong with you if you need a full 10 hours in order to be a functioning human?

Fortunately, the National Sleep Foundation (could there be a better organization to work for?) has answers. Compiled by a team of 18 scientists and researchers representing a range of disciplines, the Foundation's new recommendations, announced Monday, draw on the findings of more than 300 different sleep-related studies.

"This is the first time that any professional organization has developed age-specific recommended sleep durations based on a rigorous, systematic review of the world scientific literature relating sleep duration to health, performance and safety," said Charles A. Czeisler, chairman of the board of the National Sleep Foundation and Baldino Professor of Sleep Medicine at the Harvard Medical School, in a statement.

As expected, the age group requiring the most sleep is newborn babies, aged 0-3 months, who need to get 14-17 hours of shut-eye each day. Provided that you’re between 18 and 64 years old, the National Sleep Foundation feels that 7-9 hours per night is enough to keep you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. This figure is in keeping with previous conclusions drawn by the National Sleep Foundation.

Sadly, it seems that many of us don’t get anywhere near our optimal 40 winks each night. Just 31% of Americans report consistently getting enough sleep, while 30% of people working regular hours get fewer than 6 hours’ sleep per night. In addition to affecting productivity, sleep disruption has been linked to a variety of health risks, including anxiety and depression, type 2 diabetes, and even certain types of cancer.

You can check out the National Sleep Foundation’s full recommendations below—split into different age categories to account for the physiological changes that occur as we age.

  • Newborns (0-3 months ): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
  • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
  • Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
  • School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)

Could a flexible work culture help more Americans get the recommended amount of sleep? Here's one argument.

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