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Sleep Guidelines by Age: How much sleep do you really need

Sleep is an essential aspect of our overall health and well-being.

It plays a critical role in maintaining our physical, emotional, and cognitive functioning.

However, the amount of sleep needed can vary based on age. In this article, we will discuss the sleep guidelines by age to help you understand how much sleep you need and how you can achieve better sleep.

Infants (0-3 months)

Newborns typically sleep for 14-17 hours a day, but they do not have a consolidated sleep cycle. Instead, they sleep in short periods of two to four hours throughout the day and night. It is important to note that newborns have a different sleep pattern from adults, and it can take several months for them to establish a regular sleep-wake cycle.

Tips for better sleep in infants:

  • Create a calm and quiet sleep environment.
  • Develop a bedtime routine that includes soothing activities like feeding, rocking, or singing.
  • Avoid overstimulation before bedtime.

Babies (4-11 months)

Babies in this age group require around 12-16 hours of sleep per day, including naps. They may begin to develop a more regular sleep pattern, with longer periods of sleep at night and shorter naps during the day.

Tips for better sleep in babies:

  • Stick to a consistent bedtime routine.
  • Establish a sleep-friendly environment that is dark, quiet, and comfortable.
  • Avoid feeding your baby just before bedtime, as this can lead to digestive discomfort.

Toddlers (1-2 years)

Toddlers need about 11-14 hours of sleep per day, including naps. They may start to resist going to bed, and their sleep patterns can become disrupted by the development of separation anxiety, nightmares, or night terrors.

Tips for better sleep in toddlers:

  • Encourage physical activity during the day to help tire them out.
  • Stick to a consistent bedtime routine and avoid napping too close to bedtime.
  • Provide comfort and reassurance if your toddler wakes up during the night.

Preschoolers (3-5 years)

Preschoolers require around 10-13 hours of sleep per day, including naps. They may start to resist going to bed or have trouble falling asleep due to an increase in imagination and fears.

Tips for better sleep in preschoolers:

  • Establish a consistent sleep schedule, including a regular bedtime and wake-up time.
  • Encourage your child to wind down before bedtime with quiet activities like reading.
  • Create a relaxing sleep environment that is free from distractions like electronics.

School-age children (6-12 years)

School-age children require about 9-12 hours of sleep per night. They may have trouble falling asleep due to homework or electronic devices, and their sleep can be disrupted by increased academic and social demands.

Tips for better sleep in school-age children:

  • Set a consistent bedtime and wake-up time, even on weekends.
  • Encourage physical activity during the day and limit screen time before bedtime.
  • Create a sleep-conducive environment that is cool, dark, and quiet.

Teenagers (13-18 years)

Teenagers require about 8-10 hours of sleep per night. However, they often struggle to get enough sleep due to schoolwork, social activities, and electronic devices.

Tips for better sleep in teenagers:

  • Encourage a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends.
  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine and limit caffeine and sugar intake.
  • Create a sleep-friendly environment that is cool, dark, and quiet.

Young adults (18-25 years)

Young adults require around 7-9 hours of sleep per night, although some may need as much as 10 hours. However, many young adults struggle to get enough sleep due to a range of factors, including academic and social demands, work schedules, and the use of electronic devices.

Tips for better sleep in young adults:

  • Establish a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends.
  • Limit screen time before bedtime and avoid using electronic devices in bed.
  • Create a sleep-conducive environment that is cool, dark, and quiet.

Adults (26-64 years)

Adults require around 7-9 hours of sleep per night. However, many adults struggle to get enough sleep due to work and family responsibilities, stress, and the use of electronic devices.

Tips for better sleep in adults:

  • Stick to a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime, as these can disrupt sleep.
  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine that includes winding-down activities like reading or taking a warm bath.

Older adults (65 years and above)

Older adults require around 7-8 hours of sleep per night, but many find it difficult to get enough sleep due to changes in their sleep patterns and underlying health conditions.

Tips for better sleep in older adults:

  • Establish a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends.
  • Create a comfortable sleep environment that is cool, dark, and quiet.
  • Talk to your doctor about any underlying health conditions that may be affecting your sleep.

General tips for better sleep:

Regardless of your age, there are some general tips you can follow to achieve better sleep:

  • Stick to a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends.
  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine that includes winding-down activities like reading or taking a warm bath.
  • Create a sleep-conducive environment that is cool, dark, and quiet.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and large meals before bedtime.
  • Limit screen time before bedtime and avoid using electronic devices in bed.
  • Exercise regularly, but avoid vigorous activity close to bedtime.

In conclusion, sleep is crucial for our overall health and wellbeing, and the amount of sleep needed varies by age. Remember that establishing healthy sleep habits early. As an adult, you need a healthy amount of sleep to help you maintain your physical and emotional well-being. By following the sleep guidelines for your age group and implementing some of the tips discussed in this article, you can achieve better sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day

 

References

  1. Hirshkowitz M, Whiton K, Albert SM, Alessi C, Bruni O, et al. The National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary. Sleep Health. 2015;1(1):40–43.
  2. Paruthi S, Brooks LJ, D’Ambrosio C, Hall WA, Kotagal S, Lloyd RM, et al. Recommended amount of sleep for pediatric populations: a consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. J Clin Sleep Med.2016;12(6):785–786.
  3. Watson NF, Badr MS, Belenky G, et al. Recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult: a joint consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society. Sleep. 2015;38(6):843–844.
  4. Kirsch, D. (2022, September 12). Stages and architecture of normal sleep. In S. M. Harding (Ed.). UpToDate., Retrieved March 1, 2023, from

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/stages-and-architecture-of-normal-sleep

  1. Consensus Conference Panel, Watson, N. F., Badr, M. S., Belenky, G., Bliwise, D. L., Buxton, O. M., Buysse, D., Dinges, D. F., Gangwisch, J., Grandner, M. A., Kushida, C., Malhotra, R. K., Martin, J. L., Patel, S. R., Quan, S. F., Tasali, E., Non-Participating Observers, Twery, M., Croft, J. B., Maher, E., … Heald, J. L. (2015). Recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult: A joint consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 11(6), 591–592.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25979105/

 

Sesan Kareem is a public health advocate and writer. His mission is to use his clinical and leadership skills to democratize healthcare for all Africans
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