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What’s A Good Amount Of Sleep For Adults?

Keep reading to see if you are getting enough sleep to perform at your best.

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Almost every adult has had nights where they just don’t get enough sleep. Perhaps you are stressed about work, up with a sick child, or taking a redeye flight, which can all prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep.

While most of us try to get as much sleep as we can, it is often unclear exactly how much sleep we need.

So, what’s a good amount of sleep for adults or the average amount of sleep for adults? What are the recommendations for hours of sleep per night? Do sleep needs change based on age group or vary due to sex?

This guide will discuss the different stages of sleep and how much time is needed in each, the sleep recommendations for all age groups, and ultimately answer your question: what is a good amount of sleep for adults?

Let’s get started! 

A person sleeping.

What Is A Good Amount Of Sleep For Adults?

Dr. Rebecca Robbins, Ph.D., Sleep Scientist and Sleep Expert to Oura, says that each of us has a unique sleep duration need that is based on a combination of lifestyle and genetic factors. 

However, she did give us a recommended amount of healthy sleep for adults to shoot for.

“The recommended window of sleep duration for adults is somewhere between 7 and 9 hours of sleep. Some do very well closer to 7 hours, while others truly need 9 hours,” suggests Dr. Robbins.

“We have evidence that women sleep slightly (one-tenth of one hour) longer than men.”

The amount of sleep we need per night varies across the lifespan, particularly high in infancy and childhood and slowly decreasing as we age.

From newborns and preschoolers to young adults, the general recommendations from the National Sleep Foundation in terms of how much sleep you should get per night by age is as follows:1Hirshkowitz, M., Whiton, K., Albert, S. M., Alessi, C., Bruni, O., DonCarlos, L., Hazen, N., Herman, J., Adams Hillard, P. J., Katz, E. S., Kheirandish-Gozal, L., Neubauer, D. N., O’Donnell, A. E., Ohayon, M., Peever, J., Rawding, R., Sachdeva, R. C., Setters, B., Vitiello, M. V., & Ware, J. C. (2015). National Sleep Foundation’s updated sleep duration recommendations: final report. Sleep Health1(4), 233–243. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleh.2015.10.004

A child asleep.

General Sleep Recommendations

  • 0-2 months: 12-18 hours
  • 3-11 months: 14-15 hours
  • 1-3 years: 12-14 hours
  • 3-5 years: 11-13 hours
  • 5-10 years: 10-11 hours
  • 11-17 years: 8.5-9.5 hours
  • Adult 18+ years: 7-9 hours
  • Older adults: 7-8 hours

Dr. Robbins shares that for most adults, the hours of sleep per night (and the sleep quality) we are able to get ebbs and flows across the lifespan and fluctuates according to various life circumstances.

“For instance, parents of young children lose a significant amount of sleep in the first few years of their child’s life,” notes Dr. Robbins.

“There are also life-stage-specific challenges, such as menopause for women or prostate issues for men, that can interrupt your ability to fall asleep and maintain sleep.”

She explains that aging is another factor that impacts the average amount of sleep per night or what constitutes a good amount of sleep per night for an adult.

“Older adults do report slightly less sleep than younger adults—not less need for sleep,” she says. “Sleep systems start to decline with age, making it more difficult for older adults to consolidate their sleep, which can result in less time spent sleeping.”

A person sleeping.

How Much Of Each Sleep Stage Do You Need?

Dr. Robbins says that in addition to getting a “good amount of sleep for adults per night,“ it is also important to get good quality sleep.

Sleep quality can be quantified by the amount of time you spend in each sleep phase.

Deep sleep and REM sleep, which stands for rapid eye movement, are the critical sleep stages where the bulk of the restorative properties of sleep occur, growth hormone is released, and recovery processes like muscle protein synthesis take place.2Van Cauter, E., & Plat, L. (1996). Physiology of growth hormone secretion during sleep. The Journal of Pediatrics128(5), S32–S37. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0022-3476(96)70008-2

‌Getting a good amount of deep sleep and a good amount of REM sleep each night can significantly improve your energy levels and overall health, even if your total hours of sleep are on the shorter side.

The converse is also true. Even if you sleep for 7 to 8 hours a night, but most of it is light sleep or interrupted by frequent waking up, you may fail to accumulate a significant amount of deep sleep each night.

If you have a below-average amount of deep sleep or REM sleep per night, you may still feel groggy and tired and suffer some of the consequences of getting poor sleep or insufficient sleep despite your total sleep duration.3NIH. (2022, March 24). How Sleep Works – How Much Sleep Is Enough? | NHLBI, NIH. Www.nhlbi.nih.gov. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/sleep/how-much-sleep#:~:text=Experts%20recommend%20that%20adults%20sleep

‌Dr. Robbins provides some guidelines for the ideal length of time for each phase of sleep:

A person sleeping with a face mask on.

How Much REM Sleep Should I Get Per Night?

According to Dr. Robbins, healthy adults should expect to spend about 20-25% of their total time asleep in REM sleep.

This means that if you get 7-8 hours of sleep, you would want to have at least 90 minutes of REM sleep per night.

How Much Deep Sleep Should I Get Per Night?

“Research estimates that adults spend about 13 to 23% of their time asleep in deep sleep,” suggests Dr. Robbins.

“You can expect around 1-2 hours in this stage, which is where we enter the state that is the most similar to hibernation, where our body goes into deep recovery mode.”

However, deep sleep is one of the phases of sleep that seems to be most impacted by age. Most population studies show that older adults get less deep sleep per night on average than younger adults.

The average amount of deep sleep per night is even higher in healthy babies, children, and adolescents.

Therefore, it seems that the quantity of hours of deep sleep per night or the percentage of sleep spent in deep sleep per night decreases with age.

A person sleeping.

How Much Light Sleep Per Night Is Normal?

Light sleep is the first two phases of the sleep cycle that transition the body from wakefulness to being asleep, eventually hitting the deeper sleep phases of deep sleep and REM sleep.

“A healthy sleeper will spend 40-50% of the night in light sleep,” says Dr. Robbins. “If you’re sleeping the recommended 7-9 hours per night, you should be spending around 3 to 5 hours per night in the light sleep stage.”

Do Sleep Trackers Work?

Dr. Robbins says that sleep trackers such as the Oura Ring and FitBit work by monitoring various biomarkers as you sleep.

Each stage of sleep is marked by a unique set of characteristics, so by looking at how these biomarkers change, the sleep tracker device can distinguish which sleep phase you are in.

For example, in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the brain is highly active, more closely mirroring the awake state than any other stage of sleep. 

This is very different from the activity seen in deep sleep.

A person sleeping.

“Wearable sleep technologies use a variety of signals to approximate the timing and duration of various stages of sleep, including movement, skin temperature, resting heart rate, heart rate variability (HRV), and respiratory rate,” explains Dr. Robbins.

“Algorithms in most of the available sleep trackers are increasingly strong, and many correlate very well with gold standard sleep measurement, polysomnography, which includes brain activity measurement using electroencephalography.”

If you are interested in tracking how much sleep you get per night and looking at the stages of sleep and the amount of time spent in deep sleep, REM sleep, restlessness, etc., using a sleep tracker can be really helpful.

Personally, I use the Oura Ring for sleep tracking.

It helps me notice trends in my sleep patterns and sleep debt and decide on my readiness to run, workout hard, or the need to take a rest day based on how well my body recovered and how many hours of sleep I got.

What I like about using the Oura Ring is that it also keeps track of body temperature for menstrual cycle tracking if you so choose.

A person sleeping.

You also get metrics like your resting heart rate and heart rate variability, all of which the Oura Ring app uses to alert you about your stress levels and recovery levels.

Then, the app provides actionable advice about improving sleep schedule behaviors and sleep habits to get better sleep, working in recovery modalities, or when you need to rest versus pushing yourself based on your recovery status and sleep quality and quantity.

There is even a new partnership between Oura Ring and Equinox gyms to tie in the intricately linked importance of getting enough sleep or if you have a lack of sleep to recover from workouts.

If you are getting too little sleep at night, which is affecting your well-being and perhaps even causing health problems, check out our guide to the benefits of a power nap here. You may get to sneak in a quick 20 minutes to energize you for the rest of the day!

A person sleeping.

References

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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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