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Sleep is vital for our health and wellbeing, but one in three of us simply aren’t getting enough. And it’s more important than you might think. According to the NHS, regular poor sleep puts you at risk of serious medical conditions, including obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes – and it shortens your life expectancy.
The amount of sleep we need varies depending on our age, but in adults the recommended amount we should be aiming for each night is 7–9 hours
In this article AXA Health Junior Physiologist, Lauren Davenport explains how sleep requirements change over time, and how making lifestyle changes can help improve both the quantity and quality of the sleep you get at different life stages.
Why is sleep important and how much do we need?
We spend a third of our lives asleep and it’s a vital part of maintaining good physical and mental health. Poor sleep can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes, anxiety, depression, and a decreased immune function.
Sleep is controlled by our circadian rhythm, or ‘body clock’, which uses light and dark to regulate body temperature, hormones and metabolism, to promote sleep and alertness through a 24-hour cycle. During the day, light suppresses the hormone melatonin, promoting alertness, but at night, when it‘s dark, melatonin increases and our core body temperature drops, which promotes sleep.
The amount of sleep we need varies from person to person and also depends on our age. As a guide, the National Sleep Foundation recommends the following:
New-borns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours
Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hour
Pre-schoolers (3-5): 10 -13 hours
School age children (6-13): 9-11 hours
Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours
Younger adults (18-25): 7-9 hours
Adults (26-64): 7-9 hours
Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours.