Syncing your Sleep Clock

There’s a lot of news on how getting the right amount of sleep is critical to your health. Studies show the optimal number of hours of sleep a person needs depends on many factors, including lifestyle, diet, weight, gender and specifically age. But what amount of sleep is recommended for you? And how do we sleep anyway? First, let’s look at the stages of sleep an adult’s body goes through. The customary sleep stages are:  REM, light sleep, deep sleep, and awake (sounds strange, but being awake is actually a part of sleeping!).

REM sleep phase

  • occurs later at night
  • important for mood and memory
  • vivid dreams (if you can remember them!)
  • heart rate elevated and more rapid breathing

Light sleep phase

  • majority of sleep time
  • promotes mental and physical recuperation

Deep sleep phase

  • important for physical recovery
  • boosts memory and learning capacity

Awake phase

  • most people spend 30-60 awake each night, but in small spurts so you probably won’t remember it

Now that we’ve identified the common sleep stages, let’s look at the recommended hours of sleep needed per night according to age, according to the National Sleep Foundation (USA).



Newborns and Infants

0-11 months

14 to 17 hours

Young Children

1-5 years

11 to 14 hours

School-aged Children

6-13 years

9 to 11 hours


14-17 years

8 to 10 hours


18-64 years

7 to 9 hours

Older Adults

≥ 65 years

7 to 8 hours

Getting enough sleep?

If your sleep habits generally fall into the hours above, well done! You’re probably getting enough sleep. If this doesn’t sound like you, you might want to keep reading. Numerous sleep experts say that people who feel drowsy during the day, or rely on coffee to get through, are missing important hours of sleep. This deficiency is called sleep debt.

If you think you might be running a sleep debt, you are urged to see your doctor. In the meantime, consider creating a sleep journal, which would be helpful in giving your physician a better picture of your nighttime habits. Or use a digital sleep tracker. But the easiest thing to do is go to bed a bit earlier tonight!

*Women in the first 3 months of pregnancy often need several more hours of sleep than usual.



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