You probably know that you need sleep like you need a lot of other things, like food, water, and oxygen. But did you know that humans spend about one third of their lives sleeping? That’s because sleep is extremely important—while you sleep, your body rests while your brain takes care of biological maintenance that is necessary to keep your body running.
Dangers of Not Enough Sleep
We may know that sleep is important, but that doesn’t mean that we work hard to make it a priority. Not getting enough sleep can affect many other areas of health, like cardiovascular health and the immune system. Even getting one hour less of sleep each night can cut down on our thinking and response times. Electronic devices, busy schedules, and energy drinks all contribute to making it difficult to get enough sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, there is no precise amount of sleep that is necessary for each person. Instead, there is a range for each age. The amount of sleep you need depends on how old you are and other aspects of your health. It’s also important to remember that there is a difference in the amount of sleep you need to function the next day and the amount you need to really be healthy. In general:
- Newborn babies (up to 2 months old) need 12 to 18 hours of sleep a day
- Babies ages 3 months to 1 year old need 14 to 15 hours of sleep a day
- Children ages 1 to 3 years old need 12 to 14 hours of sleep a day
- Children ages 3 to 5 years old need 11 to 13 hours of sleep a day
- Children ages 5 to 12 years old need 10 to 11 hours of sleep a day
- Adolescents age 12 to 18 years need 8.5 to 10 hours of sleep a day
- Adults need 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep a day
- Elderly adults need 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep a day
Just as important as the amount of sleep you are getting is the quality of your sleep. Remember that just sleeping longer on the weekends will not make up for getting enough quality sleep during the week and can actually mess up your sleep cycle. Pay attention to the quality of your sleep by evaluating your productivity and energy levels, and whether or not you feel drowsy when you shouldn’t (like while driving).