The amount of sleep you need each night changes over the course of your life. In fact, your sleep needs are closely connected to your age. Many people just keep asking themselves the same questions over and over:
“What can help me sleep?”
“How can I sleep better?”
“How much sleep should I get each night?”
This article explores how much sleep you need and what your target bedtimes should be at every age. It also discusses some common problems that keep people from getting to bed on time and falling asleep easily.
How Much Sleep You Need
To decide what your bedtime should be, it’s important to think about how much sleep it takes to leave you feeling refreshed. That’s called your sleep need.
Recommendations by Age
The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following:4
- Newborns (0 to 3 months): Should average 14 to 17 hours of sleep a day, including naps.
- Infants (4 to 11 months): Should average 12 to 15 hours of sleep per day, including naps.
- Toddlers (12 to 35 months): Should average 11 to 14 hours, including naps.
- Preschoolers (3 to 5 years): Should average 10 to 13 hours per day.
- School-age children (6 to 13 years): Should average nine to 11 hours per day.
- Teenagers (14 to 17 years): Should average eight to 10 hours per day.
- Younger adults (18 to 25 years old): Should average seven to nine hours per day.
- Adults (26 to 64): Should average seven to nine hours per day.
- Older adults (age 65 and over): Should average seven to nine hours per day.
Some experts calculate your sleep need according to your age. Your genes, environment, and health conditions can also affect how much sleep you need.
Sleep experts say adults should get seven to nine hours of sleep, or an average of eight hours, to optimize their health.1
Some people are short sleepers or long sleepers. A short sleeper may be just fine with less than seven hours of sleep. Long sleepers need more than nine hours to feel well-rested.2
Children need more sleep than adults to feel adequately rested.3
For young adults and people recovering from sleep debt, sleeping more than nine hours a night might be helpful.
Sleep deprivation, or not getting enough sleep, is associated with depression, heart disease, obesity, weight gain, and other health issues.
Setting a Bedtime
To set a target bedtime, decide when you need to wake up. Then count backwards the number of hours of sleep you need.
For instance, if the desired wake-up time is between 7:00 and 8:00 a.m.:
- Infants may be put to bed when sleepy, between about 7:00 and 8:00 p.m.
- Toddlers may be put to bed between 7:00 and 9:00 p.m.
- Preschool children may be put to bed 8:00 and 9:00 p.m.
If your school or work schedule requires you to be up between 5:00 and 7:00 a.m., these are the suggested bedtimes:
- School-age children should go to bed between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m.
- Teens should try to go to bed between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m.
- Adults should try to go to sleep between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m.
Tips and Tricks
You can make it easier to go to bed and fall asleep on time. Here are some strategies that may help.
A Good Sleep Environment
Your bedroom can help you fall asleep and sleep more soundly. For most people, it’s a good idea to start with a quiet, cool, and dark room. You should also consider whether your mattress and bedding are hurting or helping your quest for a steady bedtime.
If your work space is in your bedroom, try to minimize any visual stressors.
A Nighttime Routine
Some people have had success with reading, listening to music, stretching, or taking a bath. It is best to avoid over-stimulating activities before bed, like watching television or exercising.
Good Sleep Hygiene
Good sleep hygiene starts during the day.11 Avoid daytime naps. They reduce your overall sleep debt, but they also reduce the drive to go to sleep.
You can also spend time outdoors, in sunlight, if possible. Studies show outside light exposure during the day can prevent a delay in falling asleep. Of course, there’s such a thing as too much daylight exposure. This is especially true in Arctic regions where it’s light at night during summer.12
Once you’re in bed, limit brain-stimulating activities as much as possible. You want to associate your bed with sleep, not wakefulness. You’re trying to train your body that bed means sleep.
Just as your dietary needs change at different ages, your need for sleep changes throughout your life. The need for sleep is greatest for babies and young children. Teens need extra sleep, too. Most adults need seven to nine hours daily.
If you’re not getting the recommended amount of sleep for your age, you may want to build a better set of sleep habits to make it easier to meet a target bedtime. Short term sleep aids might help, but if you think you might have insomnia, talk to a healthcare provider. It’s important for your overall health.