How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?

Sleep is as important as food and water. That is why it falls under the basic physiologic needs in Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In order for us to progress towards achieving our full potential, we should first listen and attend to our most fundamental needs — which include food, water, shelter, and sleep.

Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

Age, lifestyle and over-all health condition are just some of the factors that would determine the right amount of sleep for an individual.

The National Sleep Foundation released an updated chart showing the minimum and maximum recommended number of sleep for various age brackets as agreed upon by experts. Nevertheless, it is still important to listen to your body and assess how you feel on different amounts of sleep.

Below is a summary of the new sleep recommendations by the NSF:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
  • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
  • Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
  • School-age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)

If we are going to base it on the numbers above, we can say that getting at least 8 hours of sleep is recommended for ages 14 to 65 and above. On the other hand, children ages 13 and below apparently need more than 8 hours of sleep every day.

Signs That You Are Not Getting Enough Sleep

Do you still remember how it feels like to have enough amount of sleep? Or are you so much accustomed to getting sleepy while you are on a meeting, or while falling in line at the grocery, that you no longer find these trivial moments as signs of sleep deprivation? Whether you’ve accepted these happenings as just normal or not, one thing is for sure, these are obvious signs that you are sleep deprived.

Below are common signs that you are not getting enough sleep:

  • You need an alarm clock in order to wake-up on time.
  • Difficulty getting out of the bed in the morning
  • Moody and irritable
  • Depressed mood
  • Yawning
  • Sluggish in the afternoon
  • Sleepy throughout the day
  • Drowsy when driving or after meals
  • Easily fall asleep
  • Lack of motivation
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Forgetfulness
  • Clumsiness
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Increased appetite and carbohydrate cravings

Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Not getting enough sleep can’t just negatively affect the body; it can also affect one’s optimum level of functioning. Take a look at some of the consequences of having too little sleep:

  • A weakened immune system, thereby making one more vulnerable to various illness
  • Increased pain sensation
  • Memory problems
  • Increased risk of getting respiratory diseases
  • Weight gain and increased risk of having type 2 diabetes
  • Increased risk of getting cardiovascular diseases
  • Affects the production of hormones, such as growth hormones and testosterone (in men)
  • Premature skin aging
  • Inability to cope with stress
  • Impaired motor skills and increased risk of accidents
  • Increased risk of depression

How to Get Enough Sleep?

The treatment to sleep deprivation boils down to meeting one’s biologic sleep need, pay back the accumulated sleep debt, and prevent being sleep deprived once again. Below are some tips that you can try at home:

  • Follow a sleeping and waking-up time, and be consistent with your schedule every day.
  • Go to bed when you are tired
  • Avoid eating 2 to 3 hours before bedtime
  • If unable to fall asleep after 20 minutes of lying in bed, try to transfer to another room and read a book. Once you feel sleepy, go back to your bed and try to sleep again.
  • Have regular exercise during the day.
  • Have a room conducive for rest and sleep by keeping it clean, quiet, dark, and with a comfortable temperature.
  • Switch off your phone and other electronic devices.



Treatments for Sleep Deprivation

If you still find it hard to fall asleep despite doing your best, you might need to go beyond the basic home management for sleep deprivation. You can try some behavioral and cognitive treatments such as relaxation techniques, stimulation control, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).


Taking drugs to help induce sleep may be your saving grace if non-medical treatments are not effective with you. There are several options to consider; some are available over-the-counter (OTC), while some are only available with a prescription.

Benzodiazepines, non-benzodiazepine hypnotics, melatonin receptor antagonists, and antihistamines are just some of the available options. However, you should be aware that some people can develop a dependency on sleeping medications. As much as possible, try to limit the dosage or better yet, try using non-medical measures to promote sleep and relaxation.



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