Is Seven Hours of Sleep Enough? Here’s What the Experts Say.
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It’s morning, and your eyes crack open to cheery sunlight streaming into your bedroom. You stretch, yawn, and sit up to grab a gulp of water. Refreshed, you’re ready to start your day. Sound too good to be true? It could be possible with the right amount of quality sleep. Perhaps you think you’re already getting that. How much sleep do you need? Is seven hours of sleep enough? Read on to find out.
Is Seven Hours of Sleep Enough?
According to experts, adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night. (1) This amount of time allows you to drift in and out of all the necessary sleep stages to rejuvenate your body for the next day. In a good night’s sleep, you may navigate through four to five sleep cycles, with each lasting about 90 to 110 minutes. (2)
This seven or more hours of sleep allows your body to do some important work. While you’re asleep, your heart rate and blood pressure drop, promoting heart health. Hormones that regulate hunger and metabolism release on schedule. Your immune system amps up, healing damage and fighting disease — and that’s just some of the benefits of getting a good night’s sleep! (3)
Recommended Hours of Sleep by Age
We all need more or less sleep at different stages of life. Babies and teenagers need more sleep than middle-aged adults because they are growing fast. Here’s how experts break down sleep requirements by age: (1)
These numbers are based on years of research and apply to the majority of people. But what about the small percentage who need a different amount of sleep?
Some people swear up and down they can get by on five or six hours of sleep. There’s a good chance these people may be masking sleep deprivation symptoms — or they may have the “short sleeper gene,” which allows them to feel rested after a shorter time. However, these gene mutations are rare, so it’s difficult for researchers to learn just how many people have this superpower. (4)
The Impact of Sleep Deprivation
You need sleep like you need air to breathe and food to eat. When you don’t get enough, your body can complain with physical symptoms. (5) And it’s not just about sleep amount: Your level of sleep deprivation can depend on how much deep sleep you get, Dr. Lee M. Mandel, MD and otolaryngologist based in Fort Lauderdale, FL tells Sleepopolis.
“Deep sleep should encompass approximately 20 percent of sleep, so at seven to nine hours of sleep that would mean approximately one and a half to two hours,” Mandel says. He explains the symptoms you feel after not getting enough deep sleep can depend on the cause.
“For example, obstructive sleep apnea can not only cause daytime fatigue and issues with memory and cognition,” says Mandel, who notes it can also lead to other health issues. Because of a decrease in oxygen levels in your blood while sleeping, Mandel says, your cardiovascular system can begin to falter. This may lead to problems like congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, stroke, obesity, hormone imbalance, and type 2 diabetes.(5)
Additionally, sleep deprivation may be correlated with: (5)
- Anxiety and depression
- Kidney disease
- Low focus
- Slow reactions
- Trouble learning
Then Why am I Tired After Seven Hours of Sleep?
“Not all sleep is created equal,” Mandel says. We sleep in five stages, including your awake state: (2)
- Awake and alert: aka, not sleeping
- Stage one (N1: light sleep): makes up about five percent of sleep time
- Stage two (N2: deeper sleep): makes up about 45 percent of sleep time and helps you consolidate memories
- Stage three (N3: deepest non-REM sleep): makes up about 25 percent of sleep time and assists with tissue, bone, and immune cell growth
- Stage four (REM sleep): makes up about 25 percent of sleep time and is the time you may experience dreams and be most difficult to awaken
It’s important to note that these numbers may vary a bit for different people, but as you can see, stages two and three help your body — and mind — hum along. “If you are not experiencing enough deep sleep, then it doesn’t matter how many hours of sleep you get,” Mandel says. “You will not feel restored upon awakening.”
Even if you’re getting enough deep sleep, you may wake up tired. Some other causes for daytime fatigue include:
- Diet: Experts say more study is needed, but some have found what you eat can help you sleep better. (6) One study suggests eating a diet high in carbohydrates and tryptophan (the nap-inducing chemical in turkey) may lead to a better night’s rest. (7)
- Sleep debt: One night of good sleep won’t make up for the several nights of bad sleep you got before. If you sleep poorly night after night, you start to build up sleep debt, which takes some time to repay with good nights of sleep. (5)
- Sleep disorders: When you have a sleep disorder like sleep apnea, your slumber can be interrupted many times through the night, often without your knowledge. So even if you’re in bed from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m., you could still wake up tired. (8)
- Stress: If you feel stressed all day, your body’s stress response can keep on rolling all night long. One study found people who reported high stress levels during the day had less deep sleep and more nighttime awakenings. (9)
The Importance of Sleep Quality and Quantity
You need time to cycle through all the sleep stages. (2) If your sleep gets interrupted a lot, you can end up right back at the starting line in light sleep many times throughout the night. If your snoozing can follow its meandering path through the four sleeping stages, quality will peak.
This utopian scenario may be easier said than done. According to Mandel, some of the most common causes of insufficient deep sleep include:
If you think you may have a medical condition disrupting your snoozing, let your healthcare provider know. On the other hand, if work or your stage of life interfere with how much and how well you sleep, you may need to get creative.
Tips for Getting Enough Sleep
Whether you have a new baby at home, are working nights, or have curated some problematic sleep habits over the years, you have options when it comes to improving your sleep.
Follow a Consistent Bedtime Schedule
If you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, your circadian rhythm can work its magic best. When your sleep schedule is all over the place, your body is left guessing when it’s time to get sleepy. (10)
Exercise During the Day
Have you ever heard a grandma say, “They’ll sleep well tonight!” while watching kids play hard? This old wives’ tale is based on fact. If you can incorporate physical activity into your day, many find it’s easier to fall asleep and stay asleep at night. (11)
Don’t Take Long Naps
As fabulous as naps can feel, be careful not to venture too far beyond a thirty-minute power nap if you’re aiming for a full night’s sleep. Not only can long naps disrupt your nighttime sleep, but they have also been connected to health problems like atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart rhythm. (12,13)
Have a Calming Nighttime Routine
Give your brain as many cues as you can that it’s time to wind down. Even if you work nights, you can create a routine like pulling the blackout curtains, playing soft music, taking a bath, or meditating to get sleepy.
Avoid Blue Light Before Bed
All of your super cool tech devices shine blue light on your face when you use them. Blue light is just fine during the day, but if your brain notices the blue light still coming in strong close to bedtime, your internal clock can get confused and think it’s nowhere near time to go to sleep. (14)
Say No to Alcohol and Caffeine Before Bed
Keep Your Bedroom Cozy
Picture yourself trying to fall asleep in a very warm room filled with bright sunlight, with some roofers hammering away next door. Now imagine drifting into dreamland in a cool, dark room, with a cozy comforter and white noise surrounding you like a cocoon. The second scenario would make it easier to fall asleep, right? That’s because your sleep environment can have a big impact on your sleep quantity and quality. (17,18)
Reserve Your Bed for Sleep and Sex
If you spend too much time in your bed watching TV, working, or just hanging out, your sleep caliber may wilt. Sliding into your sheets at bedtime gives your brain a clue that it’s time to sleep, but if you spend too many hours in your bed throughout the day, your brain won’t make that connection. (19,20)
No Pre-Sleep Feasting
A light snack before bed can be nice. But research shows heavy meals too close to sleep can wake you up more throughout the night and cause worse sleep quality in general. (21) If you must munch before you call it a night, keep your snack small for your best rest.
If At First You Don’t Succeed…
Try not to let yourself toss and turn too much. If you’ve been in bed for about 20 minutes and you don’t feel any closer to drifting off, get up. You can do a quiet activity like reading a book (no thrillers!) or try doing a crossword. Then when you feel sleepy, you can try again.
The Last Word From Sleepopolis
Sleep isn’t a luxury — it’s a necessity for life. Good sleep can keep you healthier, happier, and more able to function at your best during the day. Experts say seven hours of sleep is enough, but people can differ in their sleep needs. (22) Watch for signs of sleep deprivation, and if you still feel tired after seven hours of sleep, try for eight. If that still doesn’t help, or you think something else could be going on, let your healthcare provider know. Good sleep may be on the horizon!
Is seven hours of sleep better than eight?
Sleep needs vary from person to person. Experts say seven hours of sleep should be just as good as eight, but you may need to experiment with your sleep to find just how much you need. (22)
Is seven hours of sleep enough for a teenager?
Seven hours may not be enough for a teenager, according to experts. (22) “Optimally, teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should sleep 8 to 10 hours per 24-hour period,” says Mandel.
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