How Much Sleep Do You Need?

Learn the ideal amount of sleep for you and how to get enough sleep.

Sleep is an essential part of life. It helps maintain mental health, allows for better memory function, and improves mood. However, the amount you need varies from person to person.

Lack of sleep or poor sleep quality can contribute to developing prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. Poor sleep can also increase blood sugar levels, making diabetes harder to control. Because of this, it is essential to make sure you’re getting the correct amount of sleep and not sleeping too much or too little.

In this article, we’ll discuss the recommended amount of sleep by age and what you can do to ensure you’re getting the ideal amount of sleep.

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

Woman sleeping peacefully on white linen bed.A good night’s sleep is essential for your health and well-being. How much sleep you need varies from person to person, but most people need around eight hours of sleep per night. Too little or too much sleep can have serious consequences for your health.

If you don’t get enough sleep, you may experience fatigue, decreased productivity, and an increased risk of accidents. You’re also more likely to get sick if you don’t get enough sleep. Studies have shown that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to catch a cold or the flu.

If you get too much sleep, you may experience weight gain and an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease. Excessive sleep can also lead to problems such as sleep apnea, which causes severe daytime sleepiness.

Recommended Amount of Sleep by Age

The amount of sleep you need varies from person to person. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recommends the following amounts of sleep each night for different age groups:

  • Newborns (0–3 months): 14–17 hours (previously it was 12–18)
  • Infants (4–11 months): 12–15 hours
  • Toddlers (1–2 years): 11–14 hours
  • Preschoolers (3–5): 10–13 hours
  • School-age children (6–13): 9–11 hours
  • Teenagers (14–17): 8–10 hours
  • Younger adults (18–25): 7–9 hours
  • Adults (26–64): 7–9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): 7–8 hours

How Much Sleep Is Too Little?

People 18-25 years old should aim for at least 8 hours of sleep each night. If you’re 26 or older, you should aim for at least 7 hours. If you get 6 or fewer hours per night on a regular basis, you’re probably not getting enough sleep. This lack of sufficient sleep puts you at risk for health problems, including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

Complications From Not Getting Enough Sleep

Sleep deprived woman holding her head feeling tired and stressed.If you don’t get enough sleep each night, you might experience one or more of these health issues:

  • A weakened immune system – Lack of sleep increases your blood pressure and heart rate while decreasing immune cells.
  • Mood swings – Feeling tired throughout the day can affect your mood, making it harder for you to stay happy. On the other hand, people with depression often have trouble sleeping, contributing to their depressive state.
  • Difficulty concentrating – Very similar to the effects of fatigue on mood, not being rested can also make it difficult to focus on anything.
  • Accidents – Drowsy drivers are more prone to car accidents and people who work the night shift are more likely to suffer from workplace injuries.
  • Weight gain – Research has shown that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to be obese due to changes in hormones that regulate appetite.
  • Diabetes – People with diabetes often have trouble sleeping, and studies have shown that lack of sleep can worsen blood sugar control.
  • Heart problems – People who don’t get enough sleep are at an increased risk for heart disease and stroke.

Complications From Getting Too Much Sleep

In contrast, getting too much sleep can also lead to health problems, such as:

  • Daytime fatigue – Even if you’re getting the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep each day, if you’re sleeping for more than 9 or 10 hours each night, you might experience daytime fatigue.
  • Poor work performance or school grades – Sleeping too much can affect your focus and concentration, making it difficult to do well in school or at your job.
  • Memory problems – Excessive sleep can lead to short-term memory and decision-making skills problems.
  • Mood swings and depression – People who oversleep are more likely to experience mood swings and symptoms of depression.
  • Relationship issues – People who oversleep might be irritable and less communicative with their loved ones due to fatigue.

How To Get Enough Sleep

There are many things you can do to ensure you get enough sleep:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, including on weekends.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed.
  • Avoid working or using electronic devices in bed.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Reserve your bed for sleeping and sex only.
  • Use a noise machine or earplugs to block out noise.
  • Try relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation. 

If you continue to have trouble falling asleep, see your doctor. They may be able to help you find the cause of your problem and recommend treatment.

Tips To Ensure You're Getting Enough Sleep Every Day

  1. Schedule your time off work wisely – If possible, try not to schedule any appointments after 6 p.m., especially during the weekdays.  Also, consider that weekends are usually consumed with errands and chores. If you’re able to fit these in during the week, you’ll have more time off to relax over the weekend. 
  2. Dinner – Make sure your last meal of the day isn’t too heavy because it might lead to uncomfortable stomach issues (i.e., acid reflux), which can prevent you from falling asleep right away. Lay off spicy dishes; avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and medicines containing diphenhydramine or doxylamine succinate (these are common ingredients found in most over-the-counter allergy medication).
  3. Stick to a routine – If possible, try waking up at the same time every morning, so your body gets used to going to sleep at night by 10 p.m. Try going to bed every night at the same time as well, keep in mind that your body will need around 7-8 hours of sleep a day.Older man with diabetes exercising for better sleep.
  4. Get regular exercise – Regular exercise will help you feel tired at night and ready for bed.
  5. Turn off all electronics – Our bodies are used to having smartphones on us 24/7, but this is actually keeping you from getting enough sleep. Research has shown that shortwave blue light suppresses melatonin production, which slows down your ability to fall asleep.
  6. Reserve your bed for sleeping – This means no working, watching TV, reading books, or checking emails in bed, as it will only make it harder for you to fall asleep.
  7. Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool – If necessary, use a noise machine or earplugs to block out noise and install blackout curtains to reduce light exposure.
  8. Try relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation – These practices can help you clear your mind before bed and help you fall asleep quicker.
  9. If you’re unable to fall asleep within 20 or 30 minutes, get up and do something relaxing until you feel tired again. If the problem continues, see your doctor for further assistance.
  10. For younger children, set up a nightly ritual where they brush their teeth and go straight to sleep afterward. For older kids and teenagers, implementing a “lights out policy” by setting a certain hour after which no lights should be turned on will help them get accustomed to going to sleep at night.

When To See Your Doctor

If you’ve been having trouble sleeping for more than a few weeks, if you’re waking up feeling exhausted, or if you have other noticeable symptoms such as snoring, dry mouth, or night sweats, it’s time to see your doctor.

Common Sleep Disorders That Require Medical Attention

Man with sleep apnea asleep wearing a sleep apnea mask.

  1. Sleep Apnea – Sleep apnea is a serious condition that can keep you from falling asleep. If you have this, you might wake up at night and not be able to breathe. You should see a doctor if this happens often or if it’s hard for you to sleep at night.
  2. Insomnia –  Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder. People with insomnia have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. You should see a doctor if you have problems sleeping for more than a month.
  3. Restless Legs Syndrome – Restless legs syndrome is a condition that makes your legs feel uncomfortable and restless. This makes it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep. You should see a doctor if this happens often.
  4. Narcolepsy – Narcolepsy is a disorder that causes people to fall asleep suddenly, often at inappropriate times. You should see a doctor if you have episodes of falling asleep without warning.
  5. Periodic Limb Movement Disorder – Periodic limb movement disorder is a condition that causes your arms and legs to move involuntarily during sleep. You should see a doctor if this keeps you from sleeping well at night.