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How Much Sleep Do You Really Need? This Study Breaks it Down

a young Black woman asleep in her bed; overhead view

Picture it: You open your laptop, ready to tackle the day’s assignments. But instead of greeting the day with a smile, you’re struggling to stifle all those yawns. In fact, you probably don’t need to imagine this scenario — because you’re currently living it. After all, sleep can be elusive.

But have you ever wondered how much sleep you actually need? The general rule of thumb (read: sweet spot) tends to be seven to nine hours. But, as it turns out, recommendations can vary depending on a person’s age.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults should get at least seven hours of sleep, but one in three of them don’t for various reasons. We’ve heard it all before: poor sleep has been associated with long-term health consequences, such as a higher risk of diabetes, dementia and obesity. Even in the short term, a new study has revealed that just one night of sleep loss can affect your overall well-being.

Related: This is how I fought insomnia and won.

This is how much sleep teenagers need

As it stands, teens should get eight to 10 hours of sleep every night. However, with their general tendencies towards later nights hanging out with friends or scrolling through TikTok, experts are concerned that kids between 13 and 17 just simply aren’t getting enough shut-eye. In addition, it’s not only about the quantity of sleep, but the quality.

Deep sleep and hitting the rapid eye movement (REM) stage is imperative, especially for growing teens. It helps with cognition, memory and productivity throughout the day.

As Christina Chick, a postdoctoral scholar in psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Stanford University, told CNN, “As children move toward adolescence, they naturally prefer to go to sleep later and wake up later. This is why school start times are such an important focus of debate: If you can’t fall asleep until later, but your school start time remains the same, you’re going to get less sleep.”

See also: 11 sleep myths you probably think are true.


This is how much sleep college students and adults need

Although experts seem to agree that seven to nine hours is best for adults and college students, they’re aware that it’s probably rarely the case — especially for those who are overworked in their jobs or are pulling all-nighters writing essays. Chick also pointed out that, in some cases, nine hours (or more) might be necessary if you’re recovering from illness, injury or sleep debt.

Dr. Bhanu Kolla, associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at the Mayo Clinic, also told CNN that there are, of course, rarer instances of “natural variants.” This means that some people require 10 or more hours of sleep for various reasons, while others can get as little as four hours and still function normally.

Related: Your fave catchy songs could be the reason for poor sleep.

How to improve your bedtime routine

If you’re concerned about your sleep patterns but aren’t sure how to rectify the situation, start with these steps:

  • Keep a regular bedtime routine: Make your bedroom cozy, soothing and dark and stay consistent with what time you go to sleep every night and what time you wake up.
  • Turn off electronic devices: Scrolling through your social feeds can affect your body’s sleep-wake cycle because of the light exposure from your phone, TV or laptop.
  • Try a little mindfulness: Meditation, gentle bedtime yoga or journaling could help lull you into dreamland.
  • Improve your food and exercise habits: Regular exercise relieves stress, ultimately making it easier to fall asleep at night, while eating too much (or too little) before you go to sleep can affect your sleep.

You may also like: Why you get nightmares and how to stop them.

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