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Can you still hear your mother telling you to turn out the lights on a school night? You may have hated to put down that exciting book, but mom was only doing what she knew was best for your health and development at the time: Making sure you got enough sleep.

Sleep is important at every age, from babies to teens and adults.

Since we develop differently at each stage of life, the recommended amount of sleep changes as we grow. Whether you’re now a parent hoping your child is getting a healthy amount of sleep or you just want to make sure you’re getting the right amount for yourself, it helps to know what sleep experts recommend.    

Recommended Sleep by Age

In February of 2015, The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) announced current recommendations for appropriate hours of sleep by age. The following suggested hours are based on extensive studies conducted by experts in sleep, pediatric, anatomy and physiology, gerontology and gynecology fields. (Findings of the studies were published in Sleep Health: The Journal of the National Sleep Foundation). Take a look and see if you or your child are meeting these guidelines:

Newborns (0-3 months) 14-17 hours
Infants (4-11 months) 12-15 hours
Toddlers (1-2 years) 11-14 hours
Preschoolers (3-5 years) 10-13 hours
School-age children (6-13 years) 9-11 hours
Teenagers (14-17 years) 8-10 hours
Younger adults (18-25 years) 7-9 hours
Adults (26-64 years) 7-9 hours
Older adults (65+ years) 7-8 hours

For Every Sleep Position, For Every Age


The Recommended Amount of Sleep Changes With Age

Sleep has a different purpose for every age group. It’s vital for the physical development of children and also plays an important role in their ability to learn. In adults, during sleep is when we build up our immune systems, repair muscle tissue and rest our brains. Here are some reasons why sleep is important for each stage of life.

0-12 months: Why Babies Need Lots of Sleep

Newborns don’t have a circadian rhythm that tells them when to sleep and wake. Which is why they don’t care if it’s dark or light to sleep. They sleep in short periods of two to four hours for 15-18 hours a day. Much of this is REM sleep vital for the development of their brains. By six weeks, some babies start to fall into a pattern of longer nighttime sleep as their bodies start to figure out the difference in day and night.

Because babies grow so fast, they must get 12-15 hours of sleep per day for the first year. Deep sleep releases growth hormones and tissue is generated, so some days after a long, uninterrupted sleep, it could seem like an infant has literally grown overnight! As babies get older, they are able to sleep through the night for 8 to 10 hours. They should also nap during the day to meet their recommended hours of sleep.  

1-5: What Sleep Does for Toddlers and Young Children

Physical growth and brain development are still strong components of sleep as children grow. As they start to become mobile, sleep is needed to perfect their motor skills and attention span. When toddlers and preschoolers don’t sleep enough, they become clumsy and are more likely to get hurt. Young children are taking in so much at once that they have to have clear minds to focus on new tasks like walking, running, jumping and figuring out how everything around them works. They’re also more likely to exhibit signs of hyperactivity and defiance without enough sleep. Getting the recommended 12 hours of sleep is best in order for them to move around safely and take on the world.

6-13: How Sleep Affects Kids in School

Once kids are in school, they get busy with homework, activities and social life and tend to start going to bed later. But it’s important to push them to get between 9 and 11 hours of sleep each night so they can function and learn in class.  Getting enough REM sleep supports cognitive abilities including attention, memory, decision-making, reaction time, and creativity, and it also develops the central nervous system. Without a healthy amount of sleep, school-aged kids can get irritable and cranky. This makes them more likely to get discouraged and exhibit behavior problems.

14-17: Why Your Teen Needs Enough Sleep

Teenagers have a lot on their plates with homework, sports, and jobs. Sleep is when memory, creativity, and other cognitive functions are replenished. Teens who aren’t getting 8-10 hours of sleep at night are less likely to comprehend important information in school, which can affect their G.P.A.  New drivers also need to get the recommended hours of sleep for their age so they can stay alert behind the wheel  which is important for the safety of themselves as well as for others on the road.

18-65: Why Adults Rely on Sleep to Function

Sleep requirements are lower once we become adults, but the 7-8 recommended hours are still important. College kids are taking in a lot of information and need the strong memory skills that sleep provides. Those of us who have to be alert and productive at work rely on sleep to keep us on our toes all day and relieve stress at night. Sleep deprivation can lead to depression and lack of interest in social life, so it’s really important to head to bed at a decent time. Physically, we need sleep to regenerate and repair muscles and boost our immune systems so we can be strong enough to take care of ourselves and our families each new day.    

65+: No Excuse Needed for An Afternoon Snooze

Once seniors are retired, they often get rid of some of the stresses brought on by work. They can keep their own schedules as they wish, but it’s still important to get the recommended 7 hours of sleep to keep their minds functioning and bodies strong. Because our bodies make less of the sleep-inducing chemical melatonin as we age, seniors may have a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep through the night. As a result, some seniors sleep for a short stint at night and make up for it in several daytime naps. This is fine as long as they’re meeting their total recommended hours of sleep.

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