How do you know if you're getting enough sleep? My patients often ask me this question, and it's an important question because various studies show that your long-term health suffers if you habitually get less sleep than you need.
Scientists at the National Sleep Foundation tell us that most adults will feel well-rested on seven to nine hours of sleep each night. But to get more accurate, our age is the determining factor in how long we need to be sleeping at night to get all the fantastic benefits.
Below is the recommended number of sleep hours from the National Sleep Foundation based on age group:
- Newborns: 14 to 17 hours
- Infants: 12 to 15 hours
- Toddlers: 11 to 14 hours
- Preschoolers: 10 to 13 hours
- Elementary schoolers: 9 to 11 hours
- Teenagers: 8 to 10 hours
- Young adults to adults: 7 to 9 hours
- Older adults: 7 to 8 hours
*Sleeping significantly more or less may be a sign of underlying health issues.
Why can some people function well on less sleep?
It's not uncommon to go through periods of poor sleep, but it's critical to keep a healthy sleep schedule and to not deviate much from the guidelines above based on your age. Some people indeed have rare genetics (specifically the ADRB1 gene mutation) that allow them to function well on less sleep (maybe just six hours instead of 8), but it's unlikely you're one of them. Only one out of 4 million people have it.
Please don't take the risk of thinking you're one of these people; it's not worth it.
Here's why: New research continually uncovers connections between sleep and major diseases. For example, research now shows NREM-3 sleep allows your brain to detoxify by clearing out beta-amyloid plaque – the same plaque that is found in dementia and Alzheimer's. Poor sleep has also been linked to type-2 diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular issues. Additionally, your mental processing speed and performance will all decline with insufficient sleep.
Another point worth mentioning is that some people believe you can "catch up" on sleep over the weekend. This is a myth. Several studies have proven that the damage done due to insufficient sleep cannot be undone by oversleeping on the weekends.
How can you be sure you're getting enough sleep.
I recommend that my patients track their sleep. However, it's not as easy as people think to track it themselves by just looking at a clock when they go to bed and when they wake up. According to one study, self-reported sleep times turned out to be pretty different from numbers shown on wearable measurement devices, like Fitbits. I recommend that my patients do both and then compare. Most of them use a Fitbit or Oura ring to track sleep.
Maximize the 4 stages of sleep.
We're learning more every day about our circadian rhythm and how the 4 sleep stages of sleep affect our health and recovery. It's critical for all of us to understand what happens in each stage and the natural ingredients we can use to fall asleep, stay asleep, achieve REM sleep, and wake up feeling refreshed.
Avoid being a sleep statistic.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has labeled insufficient sleep a public health epidemic. If you're like 70% of adults in America, you get insufficient sleep at least one night per month. If you're like the 11% who report insufficient sleep every night, it's an urgent matter.
For sleep tips to help you get the amount of sleep your body needs to thrive, see my article 12 Pro Tips For Better Sleep Tonight.