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How Much Sleep Do Adults Really Need? The Science of Sleep Debt

How Much Sleep Do Adults Really Need? The Science of Sleep Debt

While most we are trying to balance your work-life schedules and family life, we may not have the best sleep habits. True, adults need to sleep less than children or even teenagers, but we often push the envelope and get much less sleep than we need. So, just how much sleep should adults get?

Sleep Needed Determined By Your Age

There are some rough guidelines for the amount of sleep we should be getting, according to age. The National Sleep Foundation, a nonprofit aimed that promotes healthy sleep, reports that sleep requirements vary person to person. But what exactly is healthy sleep, and how does it vary person to person?

Sleep is an ongoing cycle between the brain and body. They begin to work together to refresh and renew themselves through a series of levels or cycles. Learn more about those here: "What is Sleep?"

How Much Sleep Do I Need, Really?

That being said, young adults (ages 18-25) and adults (ages 26-64) need around seven to nine hours of good, solid rest per night. Older adults (ages 65 and over) can get by with slightly less sleep, needing between seven and eight hours. Pregnant women may need 2-3 hours more than the usual recommendation. These ranges were determined by a panel of 18 prominent scientists and researchers who reviewed over 300 separate studies on how much sleep is ideal.

Even with all these studies, some folks still wonder how much they can “get away with.”

Before answering these questions, it is important to realize that sleep is more than just a way of avoiding being tired. Drowsiness, like hunger, is a signal to our bodies that we’re missing something very, very important. Everyone knows that we don’t just eat to stop feeling hungry; we also eat so that we can have proper nutrition and energy. Sleep is the same way: we sleep not just to stop feeling tired, but to give our bodies the proper time to adjust, repair, and grow.

Identifying Sleep Debt

If you are not getting enough sleep at night, this is known as sleep debt; the difference between the amount of sleep you should be getting and the amount you are actually getting. Various sleep disturbances can create a debt, as can staying up late to work, stay out, or even watch TV. In the U.S., most adults add to their sleep debt little-by-little every day.

The bad news is that your sleep debt cannot simply be “paid off” in one installment. For example, you can’t work late at night several days in a row and then get back to normal by sleeping through the weekend.

However: that sleep debt can be repaid little by little over time. An extra hour or two of sleep a night when you can manage it will help your body and brain catch up on their needed repair and replenishment work.

Inability to Sleep?

If you are really sleep deprived, it can take several months before you are able to pay off your sleep debt and get back into a regular sleep routine. Most sleep problems develop over time, and so it takes time to get your body back to its natural state.

That said, you can incur a huge amount of sleep debt even if you are do all the right things to get a good night’s rest. This often happens when a sleep disorder goes undiagnosed. The problems disrupting your sleep on a nightly basis, slowly adding to your sleep debt over time.

Some warning signs that you might have a sleep disorder include:

  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Trouble staying asleep
  • Waking up drowsy or “groggy”
  • Excessive sleep
  • Chronic tiredness during the day
  • Frequent snoring
  • Night sweats
  • Sleep walking or talking during sleep
  • Moodiness during the day that accompanies any of the above

If these symptoms last more than a couple of weeks, you should visit your physician to see if there may be an underlying disorder that needs attention. Getting that seven to nine hours can be tough enough without having to work against your own body!


Learn More About the Importance of Sleep and the Role Your Mattress Plays

If you would like more helpful tips and advice for getting the sleep you need, explore more of our blog feed for regular updates and articles. These are a free gift to you because we want you to wake up refreshed, renewed, and ready to engage during the day. And if you are on the hunt for a new, quality mattress, consider downloading our informational guide to mattress buying:

Want to get the whole story on sleep and the way it affects our bodies, mind, and spirit?

Download our eBook: Your Mattress Buying Guide. Use it to discover your sleep needs and simplify the mattress buying process - the Banner Way.

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