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The findings of a new American study suggest that many of us are not getting enough sleep to maintain optimal health and wellbeing.
With previous studies indicating that insufficient sleep can shorten life expectancy by increasing the risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes, the latest study set out to determine exactly how much sleep a person needs at each stage of life.
Conducted by experts at the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) in the United States, the new study brought together a team of 18 specialists from the fields of sleep, anatomy and physiology, as well as paediatrics, neurology, gerontology and gynaecology.
The NSF scientists reportedly worked for two years to produce the most up-to-date guidance, and their findings revealed that children from the age of four months to 17 years need more sleep than was previously advised.
Overall, recommendations range from 14 to 17 hours sleep for a new-born baby to seven to eight hours sleep for an older adult aged over 65.
The NSF panel recommends:
Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14 to 17 hours a day – previously it was 12 to 18
Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12 to 15 hours – previously it was 14 to 15
Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11 to 14 hours – previously it was 12 to 14
Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10 to 13 hours – previously it was 11 to 13
School-age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9 to 11 hours – previously it was 10 to 11
Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8 to 10 hours – previously it was 8.5 to 9.5
Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7 to 9 hours – new age category
Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7 to 9 hours
Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7 to 8 hours – new age category
According to the report: “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 well-being.”
Referring to the study, which was published in Sleep Health: The Official Journal of the National Sleep Foundation, Charles Czeisler, chair of the NSF board and chief of sleep medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said: “This is the first time that any professional organisation has developed age-specific recommended sleep durations based on a rigorous, systematic review of the world scientific literature relating sleep duration to health, performance and safety.
“The NSF is providing these scientifically grounded guidelines on the amount of sleep we need each night to improve the sleep health of the millions of individuals and parents who rely on us for this information.
“As the voice for sleep health it is the NSF’s responsibility to make sure that our recommendations are supported by the most rigorous science.”
Max Hirshkowitz, chair of the NSF Scientific Advisory Council, added: “The public can be confident that these recommendations represent the best guidance for sleep duration and health.”