The Importance of Sleep

Sleep is a vital and important part of any healthy lifestyle; yet it is often not given nearly enough thought or attention. In today’s busy world everyone has so much on their plates that sleep often falls to the wayside. How much sleep you get, the quality of your sleep, and the design of your sleeping space all are important and necessary priorities when it comes to your health.

How Much Sleep Do I Need?

I know that you have heard that you need 8 hours of sleep a night? But is this fact or simply a myth? First, let’s start by saying there really is no “magic number” when it comes the amount of hours of sleep you need a night. Different age groups need different amounts of sleep, but sleep needs are also individual. The amount of sleep you need might differ from someone who is the same age and gender as you.

Another reason there is no “magic number” is based on two factors. First is a person’s basal sleep need. This is the amount of sleep your body needs on a regular basis for optimal performance. Second is sleep debt. This is the accumulated sleep that is lost to poor sleep habits, sickness, and awakenings throughout the night. Studies suggest that healthy adults have a basal sleep need of seven to eight hours every night, but it can get sticky when you start taking into consideration a person’s sleep debt.

For example, you might meet your basal sleep need several nights in a row, but since you still have an accumulation of sleep debt you might not feel fully rested. The good news is that some research suggests that your sleep debt can be worked down or paid off! The best thing you can do is listen to your body. Your body is in constant dialogue with you all day long but many of us have gotten so used to ignoring the conversation that it is often one-sided. If you find yourself irritable and lethargic in the afternoons, it might be a sign that you aren’t getting enough sleep.

Other signals are chronic headaches, loss of interest in once beloved activities and a general feeling of being beaten down. Although sleep needs do vary based on the individuals the following table contains the “rule of thumb” for most age groups:

Age Sleep Needs
Newborns (1-2 months) 10.5-18 hours
Infants (3-11 months) 9-12 hours during night and 30-minute to two-hour naps, one to four times a day.
Toddlers  (1-3 years) 12-14 hours
Preschoolers (3-5 years) 11-13 hours
School-aged Children (5-12 years) 10-11 hours
Teens (11-17 years) 8.5-9.25 hours
Adults 7-9 hours
Other Adults 7-9 hours

To start sleeping healthier, begin by assessing your own needs and habits. Pay attention to your mood, energy level and health after different amounts of sleep until you find your optimum amount. To help you get quality sleep follow these tips:

  • Establish consistent sleep and wake schedules, even on weekends
  • Create a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as soaking in a hot bath or listening to soothing music – begin an hour or more before the time you expect to fall asleep
  • Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool
  • Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows
  • Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex (keep “sleep stealers” out of the bedroom – avoid watching TV, using a computer or reading in bed)
  • Finish eating at least 2-3 hours before your regular bedtime
  • Exercise regularly during the day
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol products close to bedtime

Remember, quality sleep needs to be a priority and it needs to be scheduled just like any other daily activity. Do some experimenting to find out how many ZZZ’s you need and then start incorporating a healthy sleeping schedule into your routine. You will feel more energetic, happier and a lot more productive. Don’t take sleep for granted and start listening to your body. It can be a very talkative friend!

 How many hours of sleep do you get each night? Do you think it is enough?

I usually get between 7.5-8 hours of sleep every night. Sometimes it varies but I am usually good about getting my Zzzz’s!

Looking for the give-a-way of all give-a-ways? Head over to Lisa’s blog…you don’t want to miss this one!


34 Responses

  1. I tend to need a lot of sleep. Between 8-9 hours to function normally. Sometimes it annoys me, because I’d love to stay up late to spend more time with my boyfriend …but at the same time, I’d also like to wake up early to make us breakfast and spend time with the pup!!

    No win situation 🙂

  2. I’m fortunate in that I am an excellent sleeper. I need about 7 hours per night, and I usually have no problem getting that much.

  3. i love sleep! i try to get 7-8 hours a night, but there are times when it’s a lot less…and i see the impact of that on my week too!

  4. OK this is another big reminder I need more sleep:( I swear I can tell a difference. I can go without, but I am definitely cranky pants by the end of the day.

    Great chart. Babies have it made!

  5. I wish I always got adequate sleep but unfortunately my schedule varies so much that it is hard. I definitely need more than my man to be satisfied (not cranky) though.

    great post!

  6. Oh my – the sleep question. Well, I try to create an ideal sleep atmosphere, but my husband likes to fall asleep with the t.v. baring and all the lights on! I do not know HOW he sleeps like this, but he does. Our sleep schedule is a work in progress right now. :-/

  7. I love sleeping!! During the school year, I’m usually sleep deprived and don’t feel like there are enough hours in the day. But now that it’s summer I am so caught up on sleep and it totally makes a difference in my mood. I’d say right now I’m averaging about 9 hours each night.

  8. ahhh sleep! I think I get ENOUGH, but I think I definitely use more about 50% of the time. I try to make an effort to be in bed at a good time–but it doesnt always happen.

  9. During the week I get about 6 hours if I’m lucky, but I know that is way less than I need. If I pounded my alarm to a pulp, I’d sleep for at least 10 hours. If only there were a world with 30- or 35-hour days where I could feasible get in 10 hours of sleep while accomplishing everything on my to-do list. But since reality gives me only 6 I walk around like a zombie.

  10. Sleep is definitely a love of mine. I seriously feel that my day is shot if I don’t get at least 7 solid hours. But to be honest, I prefer to get at least 9 hours because I am so much more productive the following day. But 9 hours is almost unrealistic unless I’m sick. My husband has weird work hours and we spend most of our time together later at night, therefore I usually stay up too late.

  11. Eight hours is usually my perfect number– with no distractions and a good night of sleep, my body wakes up at almost EXACTLY eight hours every morning!

  12. Great post!

    I usually get around 7 hours per night, but I like to get around 9 on the weekends. I also find that when I am working out more, I need around 9 every night to feel rested.

  13. I totally agree with this because sleep is a big deal to me! I am super cranky if I don’t get my 7-8 hours of sleep, which I’m very good at keeping. So many people I know are always tired and don’t know why, but they stay up until midnight or later, then get up at 5 or 6…umm, hello!

  14. I’d say close to 7- give or take a half hour. It seems to work ok… although a little more wouldn’t hurt. 🙂

    I’m totally with you on keeping distractions out of the bedroom. The only thing I have plugged in is my night lamp and clock. No computer (the laptop isn’t even allowed in the room except on occasion during the weekend), no tv- and it’s amazing how much that helps!

  15. If there’s one thing I can do, it’s sleep! I really need my solid eight hours. My younger brothers think I’m a granny, but I hate feeling tired.

  16. sleep is my best friend! i love at least 8 hours 🙂

  17. I typically get about 7-8 hours of sleep, but since I’ve started to get older (29) my body is acting up. I wake up and can’t fall back to sleep at 2am, or I just toss and turn all night.

  18. I love sleep…I get between 8-10 on average.

  19. I can function pretty well on 6, but between 7 and 8 hours is definitely my sweet spot! I’m an early bird, so my problem is usually forcing myself to go to bed when I’m tired instead of staying up late to watch something on tv!

  20. Eek – I definitely don’t get enough. I average about 6 a night. On most days, I feel okay, but every once in awhile, it catches up to me. I know I have to remedy it soon. I’m actually thinking of switching up my work hours to be home an hour earlier, so that I can blog/cook/eat earlier. I think it would be super beneficial.

  21. I try to get between 7-8 hours a night and I usually do. I really could personally use 8.5 hours a sleep a night, which I get on the weekends. I just love sleep 😉 I go back to school after Labor Day. NYC always gets out later than the rest of the world haha.

  22. i usually get about 7 hrs of sleep night. i definately have a routine of showering and reading before bed each night. maybe i just need to accept that my body just wakes up early and i will never be a sleeper inner!

  23. I use to need 8-9 hours but since I started really running and having this goal of running a marathon I only need 6 hours. I feel amazing and like I don’t need anymore than 6. I am never tired at night to go to bed. Hubby pretty much has to drag me to bed….weird especially since I needed that 8-9 hours before!

  24. Amen sista! I loooooove sleep but I drink a lot of caffeine so only run on 5 to 6 hours on a normal night. Some nights I force myself to sleep and get 8 to 9 hours then feel like a million bucks!

  25. Recently, I’ve definitely been getting 7 hours (but that’s because I’m lazy and sleeping in). I have always been a night owl, and it doesn’t bode well for an 8:30-5:30 job.

  26. once you have kids, i would love to know what woman gets more than 7 hrs a nite on avg and most i bet get less. i used to need more, but life has gotten in the way of sleep. sleep when im dead 🙂 I get about 5.5 to 6 per nite, would love 7. used to “need” 8-9. ahh, that’s the life of a childless woman 🙂

  27. Ah, I love to sleep!! And I need a lot of sleep!! At least 8hrs/night but better if it’s 9hrs 🙂 With less than 8 I can manage one day but no more!! And I love to sleep siestas too.

  28. aargh. I got sleeepy reading this post (but it’s not because of you). It’s because I only got 5 hours last night. Just like all the nights before. boo.

  29. I love this post because sleep is such a priority in my life! It’s more important than anything if I want to think clearly and be happy and energetic. My body usually wakes up after 7.5 hours – I normally don’t even need an alarm. If I’ve been really busy, I get up to 9… more than that and I’m groggy! Last summer I was on orientation staff at my university and I had to work ~46 hours in a 52 hour period once a week (meaning 3-4 hours of sleep 2 nights in a row). I felt so foggy-brained and nauseous after even the first night.

    I just read an article about how it’s almost seen as “weak” to need sleep – you often hear people bragging about how little sleep they get by on, etc. Really? Do we brag about how little air we can get by on? It’s so important for a strong and healthy body AND mind.

  30. […] piggy-backing on Kelly’s post about sleeping: did you know that dogs need 16-18 hours of sleep?  Our problem on Monday was (most likely) that […]

  31. There is so much information in this post! It’s great!! Sadly I am not a good sleeper. I often stay up too late (case in point, right here) and then have problems falling asleep. I also go through periods of insomnia when (for no apparent reason), sleep becomes next to impossible. Part of the problem I think is my brain’s refusal to shut off. I know I need to work on going to bed at the same time every night and getting a consistent amount of sleep. The times in my life that I’ve been really good about this are the ones that’s I’ve felt the best.

  32. Sleep is my favorite drug and my favorite vacation.

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