How much sleep do we need?

Sleep needs vary from person-to-person, mainly depending on their age and lifestyle. Each person has a different basal sleep need, which is the amount of sleep your body needs on a regular basis for optimal performance. It is therefore difficult to pinpoint an exact amount of time that everyone needs to spend sleeping every night. There are some rough guidelines however to how much sleep is recommended for each age range in order to function properly the next day.

  • New borns (0-2 months): 12-18 hours
  • Infants (3-11 months): 14-15 hours
  • Toddlers (1-3 years): 12-14 hours
  • Young children (3-5 years): 11-13 hours
  • School children (5-10 years): 10-11 hours
  • Teenagers (11-17 years): 8.5-9.5 hours
  • Adults (18+): 7-9 hours

Because babies, toddlers and young children require more hours of sleep than adults, they usually need several periods of sleep within 24 hours. That’s why their sleep pattern includes naps throughout the day as well as a full night’s sleep. As they get older, their sleep pattern shifts to a later sleep-wake cycle and a solid amount of sleep each night. Not only do we need enough sleep, but we need a decent amount of continuous, quality sleep. This has a huge impact on how we perform the next day, as interrupted sleep can leave you feeling the effects of sleep deprivation. That’s why quality of sleep is just as important and quantity to ensure you feel the benefits of a full night of sleep.

Alertness levels:

It is normal for our alertness levels to be quite high from around 9am and drop a little between 11am and 1pm. These levels should then climb back up and peak between 6pm-8pm before beginning to drop again at around 9pm and completely drop to its lowest between 12am-6am. Our alertness should then rise after 6am and continue back to our high alertness at 9am. With this in mind, some people have a very different pattern depending on their sleep needs and their particular lifestyle as those who work night shift will have a very different sleep pattern and their alertness levels will be switched.

How do I know if I’m suffering from a lack of sleep?

Some people will need more sleep than others, but the trick is to recognise your tiredness and alertness levels throughout the day. If you feel tired throughout the day or tiredness interferes with your daily activities, it’s likely that you may need more sleep and some adults may require up to 10 hours sleep to feel fully alert the next day. Ask yourself some of these questions to figure out whether you may require more sleep each day:

  • Stimulant dependency: do I rely on tea, coffee or energy drinks to make it through the day?
  • Lack of concentration: do I find myself drifting off unintentionally?
  • Lethargy and sluggishness: do I find myself feeling sleepy when my alertness levels should be high?
  • Looking tired: is my skin looking a little dull or are there dark shadows under my eyes?
  • Irritability and mood swings: do I find myself feeling irritable and grumpy at certain points in the day?