How Much Sleep Do You Need? - Here’s What The Science Says

Life Coaching

Why do we need sleep anyway?

Our bodies and brains are highly active during sleep, repairing themselves and building long-term memory. Adults who regularly get less than 7 hours of sleep per night have an increased likelihood of chronic health conditions, a decreased attention span, and trouble with learning new information.

The National Sleep Foundation’s guidelines recommend teenagers (14-17) get 8-10 hours of sleep per night, adults (18-64) get 7-9 hours of sleep per night, and older adults (65+) get 7-8 hours of sleep per night.

Yeah, but…

·     “I let myself sleep in on the weekend, so I catch up on some of those lost sleep hours, right?”

o  Sleeping in can help recover from lost sleep during the week, once in a while, but a consistent difference in the number of hours slept during the week and weekends can cause effects similar to jet lag.

·     “I tried to go to bed earlier, but I could not fall asleep; I think my body is fine on 4-5 hours a night.”

o  There could be multiple reasons why you may not fall asleep right away when trying to go to bed earlier. Typically, you will need to give your body a few days to adjust to a new pattern.

4 Tactics to Recover from Sleep Debt

Without enough sleep each night, you accrue a level of “sleep debt”, leading to impaired problem solving, motor skills, emotional management, and chronic health conditions. If you find yourself sleeping less than 7-9 hours during the week, the tactics below can help get you back on track toward getting enough sleep:

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Tactic #1: Audit your Sleep Habits: Use our “Nightly Sleep Log” worksheet to track your sleep for two weeks.  See if you notice patterns you can change in the quality and quantity of sleep, and in any habits that make getting to sleep on time more difficult.

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Tactic #2: Improve your “Sleep Efficiency”:If you know you only get 5 hours of sleep, get into bed only 5 hours before it’s time to get up. This will train your body to fall asleep more quickly when you lay down. Start getting into bed 15 minutes earlier until you are back to 7-9 hours per night.

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Tactic #3: Perform a Sleep Cycle Reboot: If you have built up long-term sleep debt, reset your sleep cycle. Spend a week going to sleep and waking up naturally, when your body wants to. It will take a few days to get into a consistent pattern, and once you do, you will know how much sleep you need to get to feel refreshed.

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Tactic #4: Check with Your Doctor: In some cases, trouble with sleep is a symptom of either pre-existing health conditions (e.g. sleep apnea) or the side effect of treatment. Let your doctor know if you experience trouble sleeping and they may be able to recommend additional changes to address those issues.

Instructions: Fill in the boxes for the time you went to bed, time you fell asleep (as close as you remember), the time you work up, the total hours you were asleep, and the overall quality (solid, restful, interrupted, etc). You can right click, save and print the table below.

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References & Additional Resources:

1.     National Sleep Foundation:

2.     The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

3.     Harvard Medical School: