How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?

The National Sleep Foundation tweaks sleep recommendations.



We’ve been talking a lot about sleep here on Be Well Philly lately. There’s a reason: Most of us simply don’t get enough of it. Or, as hard as we try, we can’t seem to get the kind of quality sleep our bodies need reset and recharge. In fact, somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 to 70 million U.S. adults report having some kind of sleep or wakefulness disorder.

The result? A 2009 survey of nearly 75,000 adults in 12 states found that 35.3 percent reported getting less than seven hours of sleep per night, 37.9 percent said they fell asleep unintentionally during the day at least one time in the past month, and 4.7 percent admitted they’d fallen asleep driving at least once in the last month.

So yeah. It’s an issue.

The National Sleep Foundation is weighing in on the matter today with new recommendations for sleep duration, tweaking sleep amounts for some age groups and adding qualifiers for others. The organization brought together a panel of experts to review 312 sleep studies published in peer-reviewed journals between 2004 and 2014. The result is a fine-tune tweaking of sleep-duration recommendations based on the latest research.

Of course, these aren’t hard-and-fast rules: Sleep needs vary from person to person, which is something the Sleep Foundation’s experts also took into account, turns out. “A new range, ‘may be appropriate,’ has been added [to the recommendations] to acknowledge the individual variability in appropriate sleep durations,” according to “The recommendations now define times as either (a) recommended; (b) may be appropriate for some individuals; or (c) not recommended. ”

Here are the new guidelines (in a pretty infographic, no less):

If your sleep habits seem totally out of whack, don’t fret. One tool you might find effective is a sleep journal. An expert recommended this to me a while back, and I’ve since passed it on to, well, everyone with whom it comes up because I think it’s a pretty brilliant idea.

It goes like this: For at least two weeks, document your daily routine — when you wake up, how you feel when you wake up, what you eat throughout the day, whether or not you exercise, how you wind down before you go to bed and, of course, when you actually go to bed and how well you slept. The idea is to identify patterns in your routine that could have a bearing on your sleep. Did you drink coffee at 3 p.m. last Tuesday and again on Friday, and have trouble falling asleep those nights? Did you skip your workout three times last week? Drink more alcohol than usual?

The hope is that as you identify what does and doesn’t work, you can tweak your behavior appropriately. Soon enough, you might find yourself becoming one of those people you’ve always been jealous of: the kind that sleeps like a baby, wakes up with energy and tackles the day with vim and vigor. How nice would that be?

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