It would be great to know the exact amount of sleep necessary to start the next day refreshed [with just the right amount of energy to glide through tasks easily], and then fade easily into peaceful sleep when hitting the pillow that night. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a “magic number” of resting hours, as it varies for everyone despite the popular eight-hour rule. In fact, sleep trends indicate that getting a good night’s rest is at the bottom of our national “to-do” list.

Our bodies are pre-programmed to be sleepier at certain times of the day than others. For example, that afternoon slow-down and evening fatigue is completely normal for adults, and is due to your body’s natural “time clock” [scientifically referred to as the Circadian rhythm]. In contrast, the Circadian rhythms of teenagers make for highly alert late-evening hours– which would explain why staying up all night used to be so easy to do. If your household is composed of several age groups, altering schedules to accommodate everyone’s sleeping needs may be difficult but is certainly necessary.

The National Sleep Foundation has established guidelines, seen below, based on particular age groups:

  • Newborn (1 to 2 Months) – 10.5 to 18 Hours
  • Infant (3 to 11 Months) – 9 to 12 hours at night, and 30-minutes to 2-hour naps 1 to 4 times a day
  • Toddlers (1 to 3 years) – 12 to 14 hours
  • Preschoolers (3 to 5 years) – 11 to 13 hours
  • Children (6 to 10 years) – 10 to 11 hours
  • Teenagers (11-17 years) – 8.5 to 9.25 hours
  • Adults – 7 to 9 hours

So how do you find out how many hours of sleep you personally need? The answer is found by simply going to bed. Mark everything off the to-do list, clear your mind, and sleep for a set number of hours, making a note of how you feel the next morning. Some people perform perfectly well on just six hours, but others easily need nine—the key is to listen to your body. Try testing several different times to determine which is ideal for you, and then maintain that routine, even on the weekends! Tailor a routine to fit your entire family based on their needs, and avoid planning activities that will disrupt their respective sleep schedules.

Most importantly, designate your bedroom the “sleep-only room” and make it as peaceful and comfortable as possible so you can fall asleep easily and stay asleep. If your mattress or pillows are making it difficult to rest, it’s time for an upgrade. All activities such as eating, watching television or working on the computer need to happen in another room. Still having problems winding down? The National Institutes of Health recommend that you try taking a warm bath, listening to soothing music or drinking a warm beverage. They also advise that you avoid consuming alcohol or caffeine two to three hours before bed, and that you get your exercise several hours before bed. Sleep well!

Sources:

  1. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/prof/sleep/res_plan/sleep-rplan.pdf “2003 National Sleep Disorders Research Plan”
  2. http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need “How much sleep do we really need?”