We spend about a third of our lives sleeping, but how do we know if we’re getting the right amount? And what happens if we get too little or too much? Yes, there is such a thing!

Keeping track of your sleeping patterns may not be top of mind, but the amount of sleep you get each night can affect everything from your mood, to your weight and general brain function1. While we might have a set wake up time, our time to go to bed can fluctuate depending on evening plans, TV schedules or when you simply feel tired, meaning that 50% of us don’t get the recommended amount of sleep2.

Managing your natural sleep cycle is easy and a great way to get the right amount of shut-eye. The first thing to note is, everyone’s sleeping needs are different, but the best place to start is with an age-based guideline. This is a suggestion that’s been put together based on research of how much sleep you need for optimal health as your body changes.

Sleep Guidelines3:

  • Birth to 3 months: 14 – 17 hours
  • 4 to 11 months: 12 – 16 hours
  • 1 to 2 years: 11 – 14 hours
  • 3 to 5 years: 10 – 13 hours
  • 6 to 12 years: 9 – 12 hours
  • 13 to 18 years: 8 – 10 hours
  • 18 to 64 years: 7 – 9 hours
  • 65 years and older: 7 – 8 hours

The key here is to remember that these are averages and some people may need the full 9 hours of sleep to feel well rested, while others in the same age group may find that 7 hours is plenty. When trying to work out what’s best for you, the biggest question you need to ask yourself is how you feel on these various amounts of sleep. And the best way to measure this is by asking the following questions:

  • Do you feel rested after the guideline number of hours, or do you feel like you needed more?
  • Are you groggy in the daytime?
  • Are you relying on caffeine to get you through the day?
  • If sharing your bed with someone, are they having any of these issues?

When your parents told you as a child that a good night’s sleep is good for you, they weren’t kidding. If you’re worried about getting too little or too much sleep, then the simple steps above are sure to help you reset your sleep cycle and find your ideal sleep time.

For any persistent sleep problems, always consult a doctor.

1Source: ‘Why lack of sleep is bad for your health,’ NHS UK, 30/05/2018
2Source: ‘How much sleep do we really need?’ Havard Health Publishing, 08/2019
3Source: ‘How Much Sleep Do I Need?’ Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 02/03/2017

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