How much sleep do you need to stay healthy?

How much sleep do you need to stay healthy?

Ask anyone about the numbers involved in maintaining a healthy lifestyle each day and you're likely to hear the same figures mentioned time and time again: walk 10,000 steps, drink 8 glasses of water, and make sure you get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. But, while it won't do you any harm to follow these rules, hitting these numbers consistently while leading a busy lifestyle can be a challenge. So, if you can't get your 8 hours of slumber every night, is your health going to suffer as a result? Well, the answer actually depends on you as an individual and there is no one-size-fits-all rule that applies to everyone. Let's take a closer look.

Eight is just a number

A major part of the reason why the magic 8 hours is an oft quoted number is because it's the most common average duration of sleep for the adult population — at least according to Till Roenneberg's book Internal Time: Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and Why You're So Tired. However, the research shows that this sleep time is only applicable to about 23% of the population, with the majority of other people getting 7–9 hours every night. Because of this, most respected medical authorities (including the Sleep Foundation) prefer to endorse sleep targets as a range, rather than a one-number target. In actual fact, the majority of recommendations match the research above, with the average adult being told that they need 7–9 hours of rest each night. However, it's still worth remembering that even these ranges are guidelines based on population averages so, if you're getting 6.75 hours of sleep each night, this could well be all you need.

Age is a big factor

how-much-sleep-man-and-baby-sleeping We've mentioned that 7–9 hours is the recommended amount of sleep for the average adult (aged 18–65), but sleep needs change with age, especially for the young and old. Generally speaking, infants and children need a lot more sleep than other age brackets, while older people need less rest than everyone else. The Sleep Charity recommends:
  • Infants up to 12 months: 14–15 hours per day
  • Infants aged 1–3 years: 12–14 hours per day
  • Children aged 3–6 years: 10–12 hours per day
  • Children aged 7–12 years: 10–11 hours per day
  • Teenagers aged 12–18 years: 8–10 hours per day
  • Adults aged 18–65 years: 7–9 hours per day
  • Adults aged 65+ years: 7­–8 hours per day
The reasons for these changes are purely biological. Infants need the most sleep because they are growing the most of all ages, and proper development demands a lot of rest. Add to this the fact that they have not quite developed their body clocks, so their sense of night and day is much less defined than in older children and adults. As we become adults, we finish developing and our body clocks are fully established, so we settle into a more minimised routine of sleep. The reason for older people needing less sleep has still not been fully established, though a study by the University of Toronto found it may be because of a loss of neurone function in the brain that regulates sleep patterns.

What happens if I'm getting the wrong amount of sleep?

how-much-sleep-person-under-covers-sleeping In an ideal world, everyone would be able to get a healthy level of sleep that matches the demands of their age group. However, it may be the case that you're getting the wrong amount, which has the potential to have long-term effects on your health and wellbeing. An unbalanced sleep cycle can work both ways and can be a result of either undersleeping (not getting enough rest) or oversleeping (getting too much rest). Let's take a look at the potential risks.


Sleep is an essential part of your biological process as it gives your body time to rest and repair, so missing out on rest can have major implications for your health. Some of the problems that a lack of sleep can cause are:
  • Disruption of your immune system
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Mental health problems like anxiety, stress, and depression
  • Increased risk of major health problems like diabetes and heart disease


While not getting enough sleep is harmful, spending too much time in bed also carries its own risks and can have negative effects on your life. These include:
  • Weight gain
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Muscular problems and back pain
  • Disruption of your body clock
  • Increased risk of major health problems like diabetes and heart disease
As you can see, there are many risks if you end up regularly under- or oversleeping, so it's important that you get the balance right and aim for a healthy amount of sleep each night. There are quite a few things you can do to improve your quality of rest, so be sure to check out our tips for naturally improving your sleep, as well our advice about how to wake up the right way in the morning. If you have any questions or would like help creating the best environment for sleep, get in touch. And, keep an eye on our blog and advice centre for more great slumber tips.

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