Optimizing Sleep At Every Age

Health Topics

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Are you getting enough sleep? How much is enough? Your sleep needs change as you age. They also vary from person to person. Babies need the most sleep, while adults require a lesser amount:

AgeRecommended Amount of Sleep
Newborns14–17 hours a day
Preschool-aged children10–13 hours a day
School-aged children9–12 hours a day
Teens8–10 hours a day
Adults (including the elderly)7–9 hours a day

Health Outcomes Associated With Too Little Sleep

Consistently getting the recommended amount of sleep is vital to good health. “Overall, sleeping fewer than seven hours a night is associated with many adverse health outcomes,” warns family medicine provider Connor Wolfe, PA-C. The list includes:

“The research goes so far as to say that poor sleep leads to increased risk of death,” Wolfe adds. “Although lack of sleep certainly isn’t the only reason for these adverse health outcomes, it’s definitely a factor, and it’s one that we can control.” 

Sleep Is Especially Important For Children

In children and teens, sleep works to support growth and development. Deep sleep triggers the body to release the hormone that promotes normal growth, boosts muscle mass, and helps repair cells and tissues in young people.

Without the proper amount of sleep, children and teens may experience problems getting along with others. They may be overly active, have problems paying attention, misbehave and have poor school performance. And they may feel angry and impulsive, have mood swings, feel sad or depressed, or lack motivation. 

Signs That You May Need More Sleep

Unfortunately, studies indicate that getting insufficient sleep is common. “Nearly one in three people don’t get adequate sleep,” says Wolfe. “One study indicated that 30 percent of employed adults in the U.S. sleep fewer than six hours a night.”

If you are often sleepy during the day, consider it a possible sign that you’re sleep-deficient. Ask yourself: “Do I feel refreshed and alert when I wake up?” 

Sleep deficiency can interfere with work, school, driving, and social functioning. You may have trouble focusing, making decisions, solving problems, remembering things, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change. You may take longer to finish tasks, have a slower reaction time, and make more mistakes.

Your career may play a part in sleep deprivation. Careers that require you to switch shifts can cause your sleep to get out of sync with your body clock. Caregivers, emergency responders, and others who may experience interrupted sleep may also have issues. “Studies show that 44 percent of those working night shifts get less than six hours of sleep each day,” says Wolfe.

Don’t plan to make up for lost sleep by sleeping later on some days. In spite of numerous research attempts, “there’s no clear answer on whether you can catch up on lack of sleep by sleeping in on your off-days,” says Wolfe. “Instead, focus on getting good sleep every day.”

If your job or daily routine limits your ability to get enough sleep, consult your doctor. Also talk with your doctor if you sleep more than eight hours a night but don't feel well rested. This could be a sign of a sleep disorder or other health problem.

Help Yourself Get Quality Sleep

When it comes to sleep, the quality is just as important as the quantity, says Wolfe. “The National Sleep Foundation says you should be able to fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed; if not, get up and engage in a low-energy, low-light activity. And you shouldn’t be waking up more than twice each night.”

Recommended sleep habits include:

  • Stick to the same bedtime each day, even on the weekends
  • Unplug from electronics 30 minutes before bedtime
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake in the afternoon and evening
  • Play calming sounds available on your phone (for example, gentle rain)

If you're concerned about whether you're getting enough sleep, try using a sleep diary for a couple of weeks. Write down how much you sleep each night, how alert and rested you feel in the morning, and how sleepy you feel during the day. Show the results to your doctor for advice on ways to improve your sleep. 

It's easy to get the care you need.

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.