How much sleep do you REALLY need?

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Sleep, sleeping, sleep problems, woman, eyes closed
For most of us, sleep is the ultimate luxury!

Hard to come by and in scarce supply, we'd happily sleep for an entire weekend given half the chance (although the kids might have other ideas...)

However, according to recent research from the Royal Society of Public Health, most of us are getting at least an hour less than we need. The average adult gets 6.8 hours of sleep a night, but says they need 7.7 to feel truly refreshed - and this discrepancy could be damaging our health, to the point where it's costing the NHS millions each year.

So is the amount of shut eye you're getting enough? Or could you be one of many who suffers from sleep problems?

Firstly, it's worth noting that women often need more sleep than men. 'For women, poor sleep is strongly associated with high levels of psychological distress and greater feelings of hostility, depression, and anger,' Professor Jim Horne, director of Loughborough University's Sleep Research Centre, tells Good Housekeeping. 'In contrast, these feelings were not associated with the same degree of sleep disruption in men.

'The more of your brain you use during the day, the more of it that needs to recover and, consequently, the more sleep you need,' he explained.

'Women tend to multi-task – they do lots at once and are flexible – and so they use more of their actual brain than men do. Because of that, their sleep need is greater.'

Men with complex jobs may need similarly high levels of sleep, but overall, it's generally women who need the most shut-eye. That certainly settles a few arguments in our house!

Is not getting enough sleep dangerous?

Research funded by the Department of Health has revealed that losing just 30 minutes of sleep a day can increase your risk of obesity by 72% - and if you're deprived of this extra shut eye for 6 months or more, there is a significant increase in insulin resistance, which can give you a higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes. According to another recent study, sleeping for eight hours can actually increase your risk of stroke, especially in women over 63.

It also seems that the day of the week where you get the most sleep can affect your health - many of the participants in the study cut their time in bed on weekdays, and then slept more to catch up at the weekend, but the extra snoozes on Saturdays and Sundays were not found to balance out the risk factor from their 'sleep debt' during the week.

But what does this mean for me?

The National Sleep Foundation has recently revised its original sleep recommendations and revealed a definitive snooze chart, which allows you to see exactly how much sleep you should be getting for your stage in life.

It even shows that children from four months to 17 years old need more sleep than was previously thought.

How much sleep we get can be a vital indicator of our overall health and wellbeing, but with the previous recommended amount of sleep standing at 7-8 hours for an adult it might come of something as a shock to see just how lacking you and the kids are!

How much sleep should you be getting?

How much sleep should newborns (0-3 months) be getting?

Sleep range for newborns narrowed to between 14 and 17 hours a day - previously it was 12 to 18. Despite the reduction these lucky little fellas are leading the pack when it comes to getting a good night's sleep.

How much sleep should infants (4-11 months) be getting?

As a baby grows experts recommend a little less sleep. The amount of snoozing time needed in this age category widened two hours to 12 to 15 hours - previously it was 14 to 15.

How much sleep should toddlers (1-2 years) be getting?

Toddlers had a little extra leeway on their bedtimes when their range was widened by one hour to 11 to 14 hours - previously it was 12 to 14.

How much sleep should preschoolers (3-5) be getting?

After all that playing your little ones will need a good rest it turns out. Sleep range widened by one hour to 10 to 13 hours - previously it was 11 to 13.

How much sleep should school-age children (6-13) be getting?

Surprisingly young school children need less than preschoolers, despite the added pressure on their routine. Sleep range widened by one hour to 9 to 11 hours - previously it was 10 to 11.

How much sleep should teenagers (14-17) be getting?

They might sleep in all afternoon but it turns out those teenagers of yours don't actually need much more than fully-fledged adults. Sleep range widened by one hour to 8 to 10 hours - previously it was 8.5 to 9.5.

How much sleep should younger adults (18-25) be getting?

As part of the latest sleep review, the Department of Health added a new category for young adults. They stated that their sleep range is 7 to 9 hours - and because of this being a new age category there were no previous figures to compare it against.

How much sleep should adults (26-64) be getting?

Sad news for all us middle-agers - our sleep recommendation didn't change (we were hoping for strict instructions to stay in bed for days). Sleep range did not change and remains 7 to 9 hours.

How much sleep should older adults (65+) be getting?

For this second new age category the Department of Healthy noted that the oldest of us need the least sleep. Sleep range is 7 to 8 hours - with no old date to compare this against.

So what if me or the kids are over or under this recommended amount?

The report states: 'Importantly, the panel emphasised that some individuals might sleep longer or shorter than the recommended times with no adverse effects.

'However, individuals with sleep durations far outside the normal range may be engaging in volitional sleep restriction or have serious health problems.

'An individual who intentionally restricts sleep over a prolonged period may be comprising his or her health and wellbeing.'

Continued below...

How much shut eye do you get each night? Let us know in the comments below!

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