How Much Sleep Do I Need? |Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans


As I was laying awake at nearly 1 am for the 3rd or 4th time last week, the topic of sleep was very much at the front of my brain.  I’ve struggled with sleep for a long time, mostly due to stress, not finding a good sleeping temperature in my house, and my current age with all the postmenopausal horse pucky that goes along with it.

Needless to say, I’m TIRED.  On the above night in question, I resorted to an OTC sleep medicine to finally get a few hours of rest.  Luckily, with my teacher schedule, I’m not required to be up in the morning like during the school year so I have a little flexibility in when I get up.

Have you ever wondered what happens to your body when you don’t get enough sleep?  Chronic sleep deprivation (and even just a few nights of poor sleep) can result in a number of physical and psychological effects.  High blood pressure, obesity, ADHD, heart disease, stroke and depression have all been linked to sleep deprivation.  In addition, loss of sleep  may result in a great risk of injury due to accident, decreased performance and alertness during everyday tasks, and stress to relationships (source).

So how much sleep should we be getting each night?  According to the National Sleep Foundation, the amount of sleep required for good health varies based upon your age.  New guidelines were recently developed which expanded the ranges due to variability in what individuals actually need.

How Much Sleep Do I Need?

  • Newborns (0-3 months) should sleep for 14-17 hours per day
  • Infants (4-11 months) require around 12-15 hours
  • Toddlers (1-2 years) need 11-14 hours
  • Preschoolers (3-5 years) should get 10-13 hours of sleep
  • School aged children (6-13 years) need 9-11 hours
  • Teenagers (14-17) should aim for 8-10 hours of sleep
  • Younger adults (18-25) do well with 7-9 hours of sleep
  • Adults (26-64) still require 7-9 hours of sleep (this was the only category with no changes)
  • Older adults (65+) require less sleep, usually 7-8 hours

So where do you fall on this chart?  Are you getting the sleep you need for good health?  I use an app to track my sleep (there are many on the marked at most fitness trackers also have a sleep function).  Most nights I get 7-8 hours; however, my sleep is not restful.  Deep, restful sleep only occurs for about 5 hours a night for me.  This can definitely explain how sluggish I feel in the mornings.

Try to make sleep a priority.  Because I know I’ll wake up during the night and not get back to sleep, I usually go to be quite early (9:30 or so) to try to bank a bit more rest.  For many, the following strategies may work.

  • Keep to a consistent sleep schedule.  Go to bed and get up at the same times every day.  Trying to “catch up” on sleep over the weekends does not work according to many studies.  In fact, it may make your reaction times even worse.  A relaxing bedtime ritual, like a warm bath, may help.
  • Create a relaxing sleep environment.  Find a comfortable bed (mine is over 20 years old, so that probably doesn’t help either) and ensure your bedroom has the proper temperature, sound and light.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
  • Exercise daily (but not right before bed unless it’s something like yoga designed to help you power down).
  • Turn off electronics before bed.

I do most of these things most days.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.  If you are experiencing many nights of restlessness, decreased ability to function during the day, or physical symptoms such as snoring, leg cramps, tingling or difficulty breathing, see your doctor as there may be an underline medical condition at play.

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