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How much sleep do you REALLY need?

Sleep isn’t an optional activity. Some people dream of having more of it; others view it as a daily obligation.

The truth is, sleep—or lack of it—affects every aspect of our lives.

Many people are in a constant state of exhaustion, which is no surprise considering our ever-growing to-do lists.

So, how much sleep do we really need? The answer isn’t so simple…

The Research

The National Sleep Foundation spent more than two years gathering information to determine just how much sleep we actually need. Researchers found that the most important factor to consider is age.

Infants need much more sleep than toddlers, and teens require more shuteye than adults. In fact, newborns well over half of each day. As children grow, they need less sleep to function and thrive. As for adults, we need about 7 to 9 hours each night.

Other Important Factors

Individual results may vary, but it’s unlikely that adults can function on minimal sleep for any length of time.

Don’t be envious of that coworker who claims to only snooze for five hours at night. Chances are, his productivity is suffering. According to the Mayo Clinic, people who deprive themselves of sleep on a regular basis struggle to complete mental tasks compared to well-rested folks.

The Sleep Foundation refers to lack of Z’s as “sleep debt,” and notes that many people have “forgotten what ‘being really, truly rested’ feels like.” Although adults may get into bed at 10 p.m. and wake to their alarms 7 to 9 hours later, sleep quality has to be considered.

The Mayo Clinic adds that adults can expect sleep needs to change as we age. Aging often means lighter sleep for shorter periods of time. Pregnancy, past sleep deprivation, and interrupted sleep patterns are also factors.

Quantity and Quality Are Important

Many of us don’t realize the impact daily activities have on our rest each night. The Sleep Foundation explains that everything from alarm clocks to energy drinks and the tiny lights on our cell phones take a toll on our natural sleep cycle.

How Much Sleep Do YOU Need?

The Sleep Foundation’s recommendations are a great starting point. It’s important, however, to take note of individual factors. If a person regularly gets 9 hours each night but relies on caffeine throughout the day, he may need more sleep than the study recommends.

Take Action

The National Sleep Foundation offers a free sleep diary to help determine individual needs. The daily log allows adults to see patterns in their sleep schedules for a one-week period. It can be eye-opening to see these patterns on paper.

The foundation encourages people to pencil in sleep alongside those other important tasks on our daily to-do lists. If it’s bed time and you have the choice to keep plugging along or get a restful night’s sleep, unplug. You’ll thank yourself in the morning.

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