How Many Hours of Sleep Should I Be Aiming For Each Night?

This is a common question that nearly everyone has at some point in their life. Beyond determining the best position to sleep in, or the best mattress from IKEA for your particular level of comfort, you need to make a sleep schedule that works for you.

I thought it was Eight Hours

Not for everyone.

Sleep is a poorly understood biological mechanism. We know that it’s important, but no neuroscientist currently alive can say precisely why it’s so important or why almost all living creatures do it. That makes determining a single correct number of hours for everyone a bit challenging.

Eight hours is a useful approximation, but other factors can change it drastically. For instance, your age and your average level of daily physical activity can have a huge effect on your required sleep schedule.

Ideal Sleeping Hours by Age

As any parent knows, newborns sleep a lot. Newly born infants can sleep for anywhere from 12 to 18 hours a day, and testing them to find out what number is optimal is pretty difficult. Infants can’t tell you that they’re feeling cranky because they haven’t gotten enough sleep – but parents can often tell anyways.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, the ideal number of hours for newborns to sleep each day is somewhere between 14 and 17. After three months, this drops to between 12 and 15 hours, and then tightens to between 11 and 14 hours until the age of two.

Preschoolers need to sleep for between 10 and 13 hours every day, whereas schoolchildren aged 6 and above are best off with between 9 and 11 hours of sleep. Teenagers between the age of 14 and 17 should get between 8 and 10 hours or sleep, while adults between the age of 18 and 65 should get between 7 and 9 hours every night. People older than 65 years of age can get by with less sleep, at between 7 and 8 hours.


How Active Are You?


Another important factor that determines how much sleep you need is your daily level of physical activity. There is a clear connection between sleep and muscle building, so bodybuilders and athletes often find themselves needing up to two or three extra hours of sleep every night.

Just as an athlete’s body requires more calories than that of the average person, so too does it need extra sleep. It is during sleep that the body does most of its muscle-rebuilding work, this is why you don’t feel sore immediately after going to the gym – you feel it the next morning.

If you’re into physical sports or spend a decent amount of time at the gym, you’ll need to adjust your sleep schedule to give you a little extra time in bed. You might not need the same amount of sleep an Olympian does, but an extra hour can definitely help.

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