Sleep is one of the most important activities we have for good mental and physical health. Getting a good night of sleep isn’t always easy to define, especially if you work a second- or third-shift job. What does it mean to get healthy sleep?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, most adults should receive between 7-9 hours of sleep. This may be a little less or a little more, depending on the individual and their needs. Older adults above the age of 65 can receive healthy sleep by getting 7-8 hours each night.
Since 2015, there have been age-related categories with specific sleep recommendations to consider as well.
- Infants who are between 0-3 months of age should receive 14-17 hours of sleep each day.
- Between 4-11 months of age, the recommended amount of sleep is 12-15 hours each day.
- Children who are 1-2 years of age should receive between 11-14 hours of sleep every day.
- Children between the ages of 3-5 should receive between 10-13 hours of sleep every day.
- School-aged children who are between the ages of 6-13 are recommended to receive between 9-11 hours of sleep daily.
- Between the ages of 14-17, between 8-10 hours of sleep is recommended.
Do Your Hours of Sleep Need to Be Consecutive?
How you get the recommended hours of sleep depends on your personal needs. Some people do better when they receive up to 9 hours of consecutive sleep every day. Others prefer to get 5-6 hours of sleep at night, but then take a 90-minute nap at some point in the day.
The overall goal is to receive enough sleep so that you meet the requirements of your age-related category.
This is a key finding for those who need to sleep during daylight hours. People who work second- or third-shift often wake up after fewer than 7 hours of sleep because of signals that come from their circadian rhythm. By taking time to nap at some point during the day, it is still possible to receive the restorative sleep that is required.
How Do I Know If I’m Getting Healthy Sleep?
If you take a nap during the day and find yourself dreaming, this is an indication that you’re not getting enough sleep at night. You can also see if you’re getting healthy sleep by determining if any of the following statements apply to you.
- You can fall asleep within 20 minutes of lying down.
- You regularly sleep up to 9 hours (or your recommended age-related amount) in a 24-hour period.
- Your sleep is continuous while you are in bed.
- When you wake up, you feel refreshed.
- During your waking hours, you feel like you are productive and alert without the need for a “boost,” like from a cup of coffee.
- Your sleeping partner, friends, or family members do not notice any sleep behaviors that are out of the ordinary, such as snoring, breathing pauses, or restlessness.
If you’re struggling to get healthy sleep, it could be due to a disturbance in your natural rhythms. Establish a bedtime routine, consider changing your alarm to something more natural, and avoid foods or beverages that contain caffeine to begin restoring that balance. In return, you might be able to get the sleep you want tonight.