Congratulations, you’re eating your fruits and vegetables, squeezing an hour or two of exercise into your routine, and generally living healthy.
However, if you’re not getting the right amount of sleep into your schedule, then you’re still not living your best life. No matter how hard you attempt to make up for late nights with nutrition and regular meditation, experts show that sleep is key to our emotional and physical vitality.
Fail to get enough shut-eye, and everything suffers — from your mental function to your memory consolidation, mood regulation, and even your immune system.
The trouble is the guidelines for how much sleep you need to get are pretty vague.
Not only do your needs differ according to your individual genes and lifestyle choices, but the amount of slumber your body craves will also adapt as you age.
That means that we’re all constantly trying to adhere to an ever-changing schedule.
One possible way to improve your chances of getting the right amount of sleep is to evaluate the guidelines established by researchers and thought leaders.
Here’s your guide to sleep needs by age.
Sleep needs by age: How your sleep needs change
To understand your body’s ever-adjusting demand for sleep, you need a better understanding of sleep hygiene, and how slumber affects us on a fundamental level.
Whether you’re young, old, or somewhere in between, you’ll have a certain requirement for restful sleep built into your biology. Too few hours of sleep leads to problems like obesity, diabetes, and even depression if you’re not careful. The side effects of sleep deprivation can be ghastly.
However, the amount of sleep that you can get by on changes with your age.
In the early years, children depend on sleep a lot more than adults. They need that restful period to help them grow and develop in a time when they’re using a lot of energy.
That’s why the National Sleep Foundation often recommends up to 10 hours a night for your 3-year-old sleep needs, compared to only 7 hours for an adult.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your sleep requirements diminish with age. According to researchers, it’s our perception of sleep that changes as we age — not the human body.
We adapt to what we can survive with, doing our best to slot sleep into a busy schedule of work and personal demands. This is a natural process for human beings.
Unfortunately, trying to adapt to live on less sleep can be a problem if we keep diminishing our sleep for the sake of spending an extra hour watching Netflix, or getting up early for work.
As we age, we need to understand our own personal sleep requirements. That means comparing the national guidelines recommended by experts to how we feel after so many hours in bed each night.
The more you know about your own circadian rhythm, the easier it is to avoid sleep debt at any age.
How much do newborns sleep?
Newborns have some of the most demanding sleep schedules of all.
When we first enter the world, we don’t have an established circadian rhythm. Our daily tasks and scheduled haven’t been laid out for us yet.
Because of this, during the first four months of their life, your little one could be spending anywhere up to 15 hours a day snoozing.
During this time, their body will be growing, their mind will be processing huge amounts of new information, and they’ll be developing into a fully-functional person.
Crucially, however, just because babies can sleep for between 14 and 15 hours a day, doesn’t mean that they get all of their sleep at once. Young children often sleep for a few hours at a time, spacing periods of energy-consuming activity, with sleep-based recuperation.
By the age of 11 months, your child will be starting to sleep in bigger chunks, perhaps 5-6 hours at a time, often getting around 12 hours sleep each day. During these initial months, the best thing any parent can do is establish healthy sleep habits.
Just like adults, babies need a regular schedule to adhere to if they want to sleep properly. Baby and toddler sleep needs are defined by that schedule, although it often changes over time.
For instance, babies often have three naps a day, dropping down to around 2 a day at 6 months. As biological rhythms begin to mature, naps can gradually be phased out with one full night of sleep that fits the child’s daily schedule.
How much sleep do kids need?
The older children get, the more their sleep needs evolve. At the age of around 18 to 21 months, your child will probably only have around one nap a day. That’s because they’ll be sleeping through the night and getting most of the rest that they need during that time.
However, naps can still be essential as your child ages, to give them the extra time they need to process information and recover from exhausting learning experiences. While toddlers often need up to 14 hours of sleep a day, they only usually get around 10, including naps.
Between the ages of 3 and 6 years old, your youngster will give up naps altogether, and hopefully, they’ll be sleeping according to a regular schedule just like you — getting around 10 hours each night.
Between the ages of 7 and 12, that sleeping time might drop to around 9 hours a night. However, the right amount of sleep for each child will vary according to a number of factors.
If your child is very active during the day, for instance, they may need up to 11 hours of sleep a night.
The variation of sleep needs by age for children can make it difficult to determine if your youngster is getting the right amount of sleep.
Since there’s no direct answer to the question “How much sleep do kids need?” you’ll need to keep an eye on your little one’s behaviour and how it changes.
Remember, sleep-deprived kids can sometimes speed up, instead of slowing down — showing signs of hyperactivity. Additionally, it’s worth remembering that things like ADHD can increase the risk of sleep disorders in children too.
Teenage sleep needs: The basics
The teenager years are another time when sleep needs can become increasingly complicated.
Teenage sleep needs are affected by shifting circadian rhythms, which change after puberty. This makes teens want to wake up later in the day and go to bed later too.
Combine those changing rhythms with the desire to stay up late socializing with friends, and it’s easy to see why teenagers rarely get enough sleep.
Although most experts recommend that teenagers should get up to 9-10 hours of sleep each night, most get fewer than eight hours. This problem is often exacerbated by things like digital devices that keep us awake at night with bright blue lights.
Because teens are often sleep-deprived during the week, they also tend to sleep more on the weekend, which makes it harder for them to achieve a consistent schedule. After all, the key to an effective sleeping routine is often waking up and going to sleep at the same time each day.
While teenagers suffer from all the negative side effects of sleep deprivation that adults encounter, they can also have additional problems too, such as an increased chance of academic failure, reduced emotional control, and higher risks of substance abuse.
How much sleep do adults need?
As we progress into our adult lives, we begin to gather more information about ourselves, and how our sleep needs by age have changed. Of course, that doesn’t mean that we don’t still have sleep problems to deal with.
Most experts agree that adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night to feel healthy. Additionally, those hours need to allow us enough time to move through all of our sleep stages comfortably.
However, getting the right quality of sleep, as well as the correct amount, isn’t simple.
Adults tend to struggle with getting enough sleep because of things like:
Depression is a particularly common reason why young adults may fail to get the rest that they need. Rates of emotional issues among young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 are often high.
Additionally, anxiety can also prevent restful sleep, caused by everything from worries about your relationship, to issues at work.
According to the Anxiety Association in America, more than half of all adults say that anxiety regularly harms their ability to sleep. Because of this, it’s important to seek help with any mental illnesses, or stress issues that you might have that could be limiting your sleeping ability.
As you get older, you may start to fall into a rhythm with your sleeping patterns. However, this routine will soon change again as you hit your senior years.
Over the age of 65, many adults start napping again because they’re unable to get enough sleep at night. Health conditions like restless leg syndrome keep older adults awake during the evening, as does problems with chronic pain, a constant need to go to the bathroom, and more.
In your senior years, you may also be reliant on mediations for various ailments. Since the side effects of many drugs can include insomnia and sleep problems, you’ll likely have a hard time getting a full night of sleep.
Getting the right amount of sleep
Getting the right amount of sleep isn’t easy.
Although you can evaluate your sleep needs by age according to the guidelines above, the truth is that sleep can be a very fickle thing. Just because you know you need 8 hours of sleep when you go to bed each night as an adult doesn’t mean that you’ll get it.
Disorders ranging from restless leg syndrome to sleep apnea can easily keep us awake through the years. Additionally, at any age, we can be affected by problems like stress, anxiety, and poor schedules that damage our sleeping routines.
The good news?
No matter what your sleep issues might be, there’s usually a solution.
You can use this guide to figure out whether you’re getting the right number of hours each night, or if you need some extra help.
If you can figure out how much sleep you need according to your age, and how much you’re actually getting, then you can speak to your doctor about your concerns. This will allow you and your medical professional to begin working on a strategy that will overcome your sleep issues.