How Much Sleep Do You Need? Calculate The Ideal Amount

image showing how much sleep experts recommend you get according to your age

The exact amount of sleep you need differs from person to person. And several factors all play an important role in determining how much sleep you’ll need to be at your best.

Factors that influence how much sleep you need:

  • Your age
  • Your health
  • How physically and mentally active you are
  • Your diet and other lifestyle choices
  • Your genetics
  • Sleep quality

A helpful starting point is to look at the general recommendations that sleep experts make based on your age.

Equally, we’re all different. So along with the broad expert advice, it’s good to work out how much sleep you personally need to thrive. And you’ll find out how to do that later in this article.

National Sleep Foundation Guidance based on age

In 2015, the National Sleep Foundation produced detailed guidance on the ideal sleep duration for different age groups.

The foundation brought together a team of 18 sleep experts from a range of fields. And they analyzed over 300 research studies to assess the ideal sleep times. So this could be the best advice for many years to come.

For each age bracket, they have three defined total sleep times:

  • Recommended
  • May be appropriate for some individuals
  • Not recommended

You can see a summary of their conclusions below.

Newborns (0-3 months)

  • Recommended: 14 to 17 hours
  • May be appropriate: 11 to 13 hours / 18 to 19 hours
  • Not recommended: Less than 11 hours / more than 19 hours

Infants (4-11 months)

  • Recommended: 12 to 15 hours
  • May be appropriate: 10 to 11 hours / 16 to 18 hours
  • Not recommended: Less than 10 hours / more than 18 hours

Toddlers (1-2 years)

  • Recommended: 11 to 14 hours
  • May be appropriate: 9 to 10 hours / 15 to 16 hours
  • Not recommended: Less than 9 hours / more than 16 hours

Preschoolers (3-5 years)

  • Recommended: 10 to 13 hours
  • May be appropriate: 8 to 9 hours / 14 hours
  • Not recommended: Less than 8 hours / more than 14 hours

School-aged children (6 to 13 years)

  • Recommended: 9 to 11 hours
  • May be appropriate: 7 to 8 hours / 12 hours
  • Not recommended: Less than 7 hours / more than 12 hours

Teenagers (14 to 17 years)

  • Recommended: 8 to 10 hours
  • May be appropriate: 7 hours / 11 hours
  • Not recommended: Less than 7 hours / more than 11 hours

Young adults (16 to 25 years)

  • Recommended: 7 to 9 hours
  • May be appropriate: 6 hours / 10 to 11 hours
  • Not recommended: Less than 6 hours / more than 11 hours

Adults (26 to 64 years)

  • Recommended: 7 to 9 hours
  • May be appropriate: 6 hours / 10 hours
  • Not recommended: Less than 6 hours / more than 10 hours

Older adults (65 years and over)

  • Recommended: 7 to 8 hours
  • May be appropriate: 5 to 6 hours / 9 hours
  • Not recommended: Less than 5 hours / more than 9 hours

How to work out the ideal sleep time for you personally

The sleep times guidance based on age is a useful starting point. But how can an adult be sure if 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10 hours is right for them?

There’s a big difference between 6 and 10 hours, especially as the years roll by. So it’s useful to work out how much sleep you personally need. And that means considering two questions:

  • How much sleep do you need just to get through the day?
  • How much sleep do you need to function at your best and be happiest?

The answer to these two questions could be quite different. For example, you may think that you can scrape through the day if you’ve had 6 hours sleep.

But is 6 hours enough to work efficiently and be in a good mood all day? Or does it turn you into a coffee fiend?

Keep a manual sleep diary

image of a woman writing in her diary

An excellent way to work out your optimum sleep time is to keep a sleep diary. You can record 4 points each day:

  • The time you fell asleep
  • The time you woke up
  • How much total sleep you believe you had
  • How you felt the next day

For the time you went to sleep, try to approximate when you fell asleep, not when you went to bed. It might be difficult if you’re restless in the dark for some time, but try to be as accurate as you can.

Look for patterns in your sleep and daytime functioning

After a couple of weeks, it’s time to analyze your diary for patterns. If you felt alert, energized, and able to do things well all day long, you probably slept enough the night before.

But if you felt any of the symptoms of sleep deprivation, you might not have gotten enough the night or two before.

You can continue doing this for as long as you like. And over the weeks or months, you’ll get a clearer picture of the amount of sleep you need to aim for.

If you want more accurate information over a period of time, you could invest in a good sleep tracker. But it’s still good to keep a manual diary of how you felt each day.

Sleep deprivation symptoms to watch out for

It’s possible to experience sleep deprivation without realizing. When you complete your sleep diary, keep an eye out for these signs:

  • Always needing an alarm clock to wake up, or using the snooze function a lot
  • Finding it difficult to get out of bed in the morning
  • Feeling sleepy at work, in school or in warm environments
  • Feeling very tired after a heavy meal, in the afternoons or when driving
  • Being grumpy or irritable
  • Having difficulty concentrating, remembering things or making decisions
  • A change in appetite or weight gain
  • Being more accident prone
  • It only takes you a couple of minutes to fall asleep at night
  • Susceptible to colds and infections
  • Stressful things are difficult to cope with
  • Finding it hard to motivate yourself to do normal activities
  • Your reaction times are reduced
infographic explaining key sleep deprivation symptoms

There may, of course, be other explanations for some of these. But it’s still important to record them in the context of working out your sleep.

The key is to carefully check your diary to see if you only experience the symptoms on the days after having less sleep. That will be a good indicator that you’re not getting enough sleep on those days.

And hopefully, you’ll also start to see how many hours of sleep results in you writing ‘felt good all day’ in your diary.

Don’t panic if you’re not sleeping enough

Even though these guidelines exist, try not to panic if you don’t always get that optimum amount.

For example, if you’ve worked out that your golden number of hours sleep is exactly 8, then the temptation will be to start worrying when you only get 7.

The reality is that most people can function well with less sleep from time to time. So on the nights when it takes you longer to fall asleep, try not to worry that the next day will be difficult. That thought will only keep you awake longer.

How much do you sleep?

How much sleep do you think you get on average, and how much do you think you need to be at your best? Feel free to leave a comment below.

12 thoughts on “How Much Sleep Do You Need? Calculate The Ideal Amount”

  1. Hey i am Tarun. I take 6 hours sleep, sometimes it helps to feel cool and energetic, and sometimes i feel lazy, and I don’t feel well. Can you please tell me either i should continue with schedule and need to make some changes?

    1. Hi Tarun
      Thanks for your comment. If you think that you sometimes don’t sleep enough and it you’re tired the next day, then yes, maybe you need a little more sleep.
      Regards
      Ethan

  2. I’m 16 and I usually get 4 hours of sleep but I can get by on none at all. Is this bad? Also when I do sleep it’s restless and i get nightmares.

    1. Hi Grace
      Thanks for your comment. It’s not an ideal amount of sleep, and eventually will probably impact on your daily life, if it hasn’t already. Do you never sleep more than that? Do you know what stops you from sleeping more? Do you feel stressed or anxious about anything?
      Regards
      Ethan

    2. @Grace: Not sure if you’re still subscribed to this thread but here goes nothing. I’m a few decades older than you but do remember my teenage years. As a child and teenager I had far more nightmares than I do as an adult. My guess has always been that it related the maturing of the brain. That may be a normal part of ‘growing up’.

      As for getting 4 hours per night, that’s NOT normal. I work with teens, and, while lack of sleep has become a HUGE issue in recent years, 4 hours is abnormal, even by modern teenager standards.

      #1 Go see your family doctor. It is NOT, I repeat NOT normal to be getting 4 hours a sleep. Teenage bodies need far more than that to grow and, especially, for mental health.

      #2 Develop a plan for your devices. If you have one in the room with you at night it is too close. Set up a do not disturb function for the time that you want to be asleep and stick to it. Find a safe spot in your home BUT NOT IN YOUR BEDROOM where you can leave your device(s).

      #3 Don’t watch movies after a certain hour. Period. Full stop. Same goes for being on the internet.

      #4 Consider asking the adult in your life to put a time-based lock on your computer THAT YOU CAN’T UNLOCK for certain hours.

      Since your comment is from three months ago I do hope you’ve resolved your sleep issues, but, having dealt with mine for years, I doubt it (of course, mine appear to be hereditary, and, only partially environmental).

  3. I need at least 8 hours of sleep to be fully rested and ready for work/school. However, sometimes when the time gets very busy that includes school + work, I would get only about 5 hours of sleep but then I would feel tired the whole day. On the weekends I love to sleep in for about 10 hours.

    1. Hi Weston
      Thanks for your comment. I’m the same – about 8 hours is what makes me at my best I think. I know it’s tough when you sleep for much less than you’d like to; the next day can be difficult to get through. Maybe if you try sleeping for just the normal 8 hours at the weekend too, it might help stabilize your sleep pattern so you get 8 hours more regularly and not the 5 hours.

      Regards
      Ethan

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