Sleep: How Much is Really Essential?

Sleep: How Much is Really Essential?

Aug 31, 2022Alea Fite, MS RD LD

Back-to-school time often comes with a change-up in our routine and an increase in our time commitments. When our routines change or there are more demands on our time, often one of the first things that suffers is our sleep. Adequate, quality sleep is an important part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Sleep is essential for not only physical health, but mental health as well. The benefits of quality sleep are numerous, but here are a few of them.

Benefits of sleep:

  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Maintains baseline mental health and improves mood
  • Reduces risk of chronic disease
  • Improves physical and mental functioning
  • Maintains a healthy metabolism
  • Improves decision making
  • Regulates blood sugar

Now that we know how important sleep is to our overall well-being, how do we know how much we need? While everyone is a little different and may have differing needs based on lifestyle, activities, biological needs, etc., there are some general recommendations that we can start from to help figure out what works best for our bodies. These amounts are especially important for growing kids.

Sleep recommendations according to the CDC per 24 hours:

  • Infants (4-12 months) need 12-16 hours (including naps)
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours (including naps)
  • Preschoolers (3-5 years): 10-13 hours (including naps)
  • School-age kids (6-12 years): 9-12 hours
  • Teenagers (13-18 years): 8-10 hours
  • Adults:
    • 18-60 years: 7 or more hours per night
    • 61-64 years: 7-9 hours
    • 65+ years: 7-8 hours

For some, these amounts may seem unattainable, especially if you are not even getting close to what is recommended. Start by trying to add just 30 minutes extra to your sleep at night. Making small adjustments can help move you toward more quality sleep. Also, bedtime and bedtime routines are not just for kids. Adults can benefit just the same from creating a nighttime routine for themselves, to help teach the body when it is time to start winding down and resting for the evening. It takes time to form any solid healthy habit, so be consistent with your changes – and even if you are not asleep by your bedtime, at least be in bed and screen free. Remember that adequate sleep is one part of a healthy lifestyle and works wonders for improving overall health when combined with healthy food and physical activity.


*The blog articles, recipes and recommendations found on this site are not intended as medical advice and should not replace consulting with your medical provider. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.

About the Registered Dietitian

Alea Lester Fite, MS, RD, LD, received her bachelor’s degrees from the University of Minnesota in Spanish and biology and her master’s degree with coordinating internship program at the University of Illinois at Chicago in Nutrition and Dietetics. Alea has always had a passion for health and fitness, participating in competitive sports for most of her life. She found that she loved inspiring and helping people make healthy changes. Alea started seeing a registered dietitian when she was having her own digestive health issues and realized that she enjoyed learning about and working with food.

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