Sleep is essential for us and takes up about a third of our lives for good reason. Whether we wake up refreshed in the morning depends not only on the quality but also on the duration of our sleep. But how much sleep is actually healthy and why do we sleep less and less as we get older? Here you can find out how our sleep patterns change over the years and how much sleep we really need.
Table of contents
- Sleep & sleep duration
- How much sleep do we need?
- Your need for sleep matters
- Overview: The optimal sleep duration
Sleep and sleep duration
Sleep determines about one third of our lives. In addition to the actual quality of sleep, the duration of sleep is also crucial for healthy and restful sleep patterns. However, we are increasingly foregoing sleep in favour of our social structures. For example, people today sleep around 1.5 hours less than they did 100 years ago, and a study by the Techniker Krankenkasse health insurance company shows that one in four Germans already suffers from a lack of sleep. Whether, on the contrary, we can also sleep too much, you will find out in this article. How many hours of sleep we really need per night to wake up refreshed, however, varies from person to person and depends on various factors.
The circadian rhythm, also known as the internal clock, influences our sleep-wake cycle and determines whether we are more likely to be evening people (owls) or morning people (larks). Because our social structures prefer an early start to the day, the owl type in particular often has to forego important hours of sleep. However, the optimal duration of sleep also changes as we grow older. Babies and toddlers need significantly more sleep than teenagers, and the need for length of nightly rest also differs between young and older adults, steadily decreasing with age.
This is because a high volume of sleep is very important, especially during the human developmental and growth stages. Sleep plays a central role in our mental and physical health, forms the basis for our performance, and is the most important period of regeneration and repair.
Read here what exactly happens during sleep.
So how much sleep do we really need as babies, children, teenagers and adults?
How much sleep do we need?
After birth (0 - 11 months)
At the beginning of our lives, we need the most sleep because important developmental processes are taking place. Growth hormones are released, the immune system is formed and impressions and information are processed and stored. Newborns therefore sleep up to 17 hours a day and spend a large part of this time in REM sleep. Because sensory impressions also have a much stronger effect on babies, the optimal length of sleep in the first eleven months of life is a total of 12 to 17 hours, according to the American National Health Foundation. Since a newborn baby does not yet know a day-night rhythm, these hours are usually divided into 5 to 6 sleep phases during the day and night.
In childhood (1 - 13 years)
During the first months and years of life, we slowly adapt to the day-night cycle. Compared to infancy, daytime sleep in particular is then reduced, but so is the total amount of sleep. Infants (up to 2 years) sleep between 11 and 14 hours at best. As daytime sleep is increasingly abandoned, up to 13 hours of nighttime sleep is recommended for children between the ages of 2 and 5. In the following years, the average amount of sleep required continues to decrease and a fixed rhythm without daytime sleep establishes itself. For children up to the age of 13, a nightly sleep duration of between 9 and 11 hours is therefore considered optimal.
In youth (14 - 17 years)
In the teenage years, physical development slowly comes to an end and the need for a high sleep duration slowly decreases. Teenagers still need more sleep than adults. With the increasingly independent organization of the day-night rhythm, it then becomes clearer which sleep type we belong to. The recommended amount of sleep is 8 to 10 hours per night.
In adulthood (18 - 64 years)
For adults, a nightly sleep duration of 7 to 9 hours corresponds to the recommendations. As at a young age, the optimal length varies according to sleep type and personal feeling. However, sleep quality is also crucial for a healthy and productive daily routine. For example, 6 hours of sleep at a stretch are significantly more restorative than 8 hours with several interruptions. As a rule, we have a healthy sleep pattern if we do not sleep less than 6 or more than 9 hours in the long term and do not interrupt the nightly rest phases.
In advanced age (from 65 years)
In old age, the average required sleep duration changes only slightly - about 7 to 8 hours are recommended. So the fact that older people supposedly sleep less and engage in "bed-wetting" is not entirely true. With increasing age, the production of the sleep hormone melatonin decreases, which means that we wake up more easily, especially in the morning hours. In addition, older people are more likely to suffer from illnesses and take more medication. Both of these factors affect the quality of sleep and can therefore shorten the amount of time we sleep at night. It is also much easier to make up for a lack of sleep in old age with a midday and afternoon nap.
Your need for sleep counts
Sleep is essential for our development, health and performance and takes up a large part of our lives for good reason. The fact that we sleep differently over the years is part of the natural rhythm of our lives and always adapts to age-specific circumstances. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to your own needs. Because in the end, we only know ourselves what the optimal length of sleep is for us when we wake up the next morning.
Overview: The optimal length of sleep
|Age||Recommended sleep duration|
|0 - 3 months||
14 - 17 hours
|4 - 11 months||12 - 15 hours|
|1 - 2 years||11 - 14 hours|
|3 - 5 years||10 - 13 hours|
|6 - 13 years||9 - 11 hours|
|14 - 17 years||8 - 10 hours|
|18 - 25 years||7 - 9 hours|
|26 - 64 years||7 - 9 hours|
|65 yearsand older||7 - 8 hours|
The need for sleep changes over time, we get used to a fixed sleep-wake rhythm and need less sleep as we get older.
Babies and toddlers are in important stages of development and growth and need a particularly large amount of sleep (15 - 17 hours) spread over day and night.
Children of kindergarten and primary school age reduce their daytime sleep and, depending on their age, still sleep best between 10 and 14 hours.
Older children and adolescents generally only sleep at night. A daily sleep duration between 9 and 11 hours is considered optimal.
For adults, 7 to 9 hours of sleep is recommended.
For seniors, 7 to 8 hours of sleep is considered optimal.
Ultimately, follow your gut! How long you need to sleep to wake up refreshed depends on you and how you feel.
Best wishes and see you soon!