Are You Getting the Recommended Amount of Sleep?

Many people are not getting the recommended amount of sleep on a regular basis

The CDC reported over one-third (37.1%) of adults are not getting the recommended amount of sleep (i.e., at least 7 hours/night). The numbers are even worse for kids, with approximately 58% of middle school students and 73% of high school students not getting enough sleep! These percentages continue to worsen over time.

How much sleep do you need?

In 2015, the National Sleep Foundation published the following recommendations for sleep duration in a 24-hour period:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours
  • Infants (3-11 months): 12-15 hours
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
  • Preschoolers (3-5 years): 10-13 hours
  • School-aged children (6-13 years): 9-11 hours
  • Teenagers (14-17 years): 8-10 hours
  • Adults (18-64 years): 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65 years and older): 7-8 hours

Insufficient sleep is not good for your health and well-being.

Not getting enough sleep on a regular basis is associated with an increased risk of the following:

  • Weight gain and obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Risky behavior
  • Alcohol and/or drug use
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Troubles concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Poor performance at work or school
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Motor vehicle accidents (click on this post to read more about the effects of drowsiness on driving)
  • Other injuries/accidents

In addition to the above, insufficient sleep is associated with food cravings, especially high calorie, high carbohydrate foods. As someone with 3 young children, I know this is definitely true. When I don’t get enough sleep, I crave donuts, cake, or anything else with icing. Not getting the recommended amount of sleep is also associated with reduced immune response, meaning you are more likely to get sick and also have less benefit from vaccinations preventing illnesses.

Can you make up for several nights of not getting the recommended amount of sleep?

The answer: probably not. Lack of sleep accumulates over time, called “sleep debt.” Therefore, the longer you have had inadequate sleep, the harder it is to make up for it. For example, an adult, who should be getting at least 7 hours of sleep every night, gets 6 hours of sleep on weekdays and 7.5 hours of sleep on the weekends. This data means that every week, this person has at least 4 hours of “sleep debt” or needed at least 4 hours more of sleep than what she actually got. If that pattern continued for 1 year it would result in 208 hours of “sleep debt” and for 5 years 1,040 hours less sleep than what the body needs. Therefore, it’s best to target the recommended amount of sleep every night. Additionally, insufficient sleep for several days can have the same effect as not sleeping at all for a night or two.

As you can see, many people are not getting the recommended amount of sleep, and the effects of insufficient sleep are profound. Unfortunately, when we are busy, sleep seems the first thing we compromise. However, we should be making sure we are achieving adequate sleep on a regular basis.

How much sleep do you get on average? Are you getting the recommended amount? Please leave a comment.


Remember to never drive or engage in activities requiring a high level of attention when drowsy.

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