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How Many Hours of Sleep do you Need?

By Rosemary Ann Ogilvie

An expert panel convened by the US National Sleep Foundation is making new age-based recommendations on how much sleep we need.


These new guidelines, published in the journal Sleep, include a broader range of what constitutes a good night’s sleep. For example, the expert panel recommends teens aged 14 to 17 get 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night, where the previous guideline had a narrower recommended range of 8.5 to 9.5 hours.


Lydia DonCarlos PhD, a professor in the Department of Cell and Molecular Physiology of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, and other experts in disciplines including sleep, anatomy, physiology, paediatrics, neurology, gerontology and gynaecology examined – in a scientifically rigorous process – 320 studies reporting sleep-duration findings for healthy people, effects of reduced or prolonged sleep duration, and health consequences of too much or too little sleep.


DonCarlos is a neuro-endocrinologist who studies how hormones affect the structure of the brain. Hormones produced by the hypothalamus, which is responsible for regulating hormone production, govern body temperature, hunger, stress responses, sex drive, circadian rhythms and sleep.


In addition to serving on the National Sleep Foundation expert panel, DonCarlos serves on the National Institutes of Health’s Neuroendocrinology, Neuroimmunology, Rhythms and Sleep (NNRS) study section, which reviews applications for research grants.


“We still have a great deal to learn about the function of sleep,” says DonCarlos. “We know it’s restorative and important for memory consolidation. But we don’t know the details of what the function of sleep is, even though it is how we spend one-third of our lives.”


These are the sleep-time recommendations from the National Sleep Foundation expert panel:


  • Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously 12-18)
  • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously 14-15)
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously 12-14)
  • Pre-schoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously 11-13)
  • School-age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously 10-11)
  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously 8.5-9.5)
  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range remains 7-9 hours.
  • Older adults (65 or more): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category).


Written for the Australian Traditional-Medicine Society (ATMS) by Rosemary Ann Ogilvie from materials released by the National Sleep Foundation.

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Rosemary Ann Ogilvie