Sure, you’re eating your vegetables and fruits and squeezing in exercise at least 20 minutes a day, but are you getting enough sleep, too?
The National Sleep Foundation’s latest sleep recommendations, published March 2015 in the journal Sleep Health, may make you want to think twice about skimping on essential shut-eye. (1) Sleep is key to your physical health and emotional vitality, but just how many hours of sleep you need depends on your age and stage of development.
“Sleep is important for mental function: alertness, memory consolidation, mood regulation, and physical health,” says Phyllis C. Zee, MD, PhD, professor of neurology and director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
Too few hours of sleep or poor sleep could pave the way to a myriad of emotional and physical problems, from diabetes to obesity, explains Dr. Zee. “In fact, data shows that with sleep loss, there are changes in the way the body handles glucose, which could lead to a state of insulin resistance (prediabetes),” says Zee. “There is also evidence that lack of sleep alters appetite regulation, which may lead to overeating or food choices that can also contribute to obesity or being overweight.”
Your Sleep Needs Will Change Over the Years
How much sleep you need to stay healthy, alert, and active depends on your age and varies from person to person. Most adults need at least seven or more hours of sleep each night.
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) and a panel of 18 experts combed through more than 300 studies to identify the ideal amount of time a person needs to sleep according to their age:
- Newborns (0 to 3 months): 14 to 17 hours of sleep
- Infants (4 to 11 months): 12 to 15 hours of sleep
- Toddlers (1 to 2 years): 11 to 14 hours of sleep
- Preschoolers (3 to 5 years): 10 to 13 hours of sleep
- School-aged children (6 to 13 years): 9 to 11 hours of sleep
- Teenagers (14 to 17 years): 8 to 10 hours of sleep
- Young adults (18 to 25 years): 7 to 9 hours of sleep
- Adults (26 to 64 years): 7 to 9 hours of sleep
- Older adults (65 years or older): 7 to 8 hours of sleep