How Much Sleep Do You ACTUALLY Need? (for young, in-between, and older adults)

Jul 15, 2020

Contrary to those who believe that they’ll “save their sleep for the grave”, by neglecting your need for sleep, you dramatically increase your chances of dying earlier. Yes, really.

So how much sleep do you actually need? It’s fair to guess that you actually need more than you’re getting.

We live in a chronically sleep deprived generation, and, with electricity allowing us to pretend night is day, and electronic devices enabling us to keep our brains artificially stimulated into the wee hours of the night, a well rested adult (and kid, too!) is a rare being, indeed.

If you think that you “can manage” on a number that falls within the “may be appropriate” lower range below, please: be honest with yourself. 

Are you snapping and irritable because you’re tired? Do you crash at 6 pm? Or noon? Or any other time before you get into bed? Do you wake up to the sound of an alarm clock (or baby’s cry), but can’t function without a cup of coffee? 

If so then the truth is that you actually can’t manage with that amount of sleep. Make your bedtime earlier to up your sleep intake so that you’re actually managing.

So, without further ado: how much sleep do you actually need?

Young Adult (18-25 years)

NSF (National Sleep Foundation) recommended range: 7-9 hours

NSF “may be appropriate” range (higher):  10-11

NSF “may be appropriate” range (lower): 6

You may fall into the young adult category. Or, you may have a child who falls into the young adult category.

Coming off of the sleep deprived teen years (later circadian cycles + social pressures + early school starts aren’t the best combination for fulfilling a teen’s 9 hour and 15 minute sleep need!), young adults tend to expect their bodies to stay up as late as teens, but are also entering the stage of life (especially in frum circles) where they have adult expectations and obligations thrust upon them.

During these years, many young women and men get married and begin to raise a family, while simultaneously keeping an active social life, jobs/kollel, and extended family obligations.

If this is your child: as with the teenage years, this is out of your control. Hopefully you will have built a foundation and educated during the earlier years of your child’s childhood. If not, you may have the relationship to bring up some education now, but it is outside of your control.

BUT if this is you, then there is a LOT you can do to make sure you’re getting the sleep you need.

The needs of a young adult are not that much different than those of an adult (though it may be normal for a young adult to still need as much as 11 hours of sleep, as opposed to the higher level of 10 hours for an adult), so let’s talk about sleep needs and some things to look at to make sure you’re meeting those sleep needs, below.

Adult (26-64 years)

NSF recommended range: 7-9

NSF “may be appropriate” range (higher): 10

NSF “may be appropriate” range (lower): 6

The average adult needs 8 hours of consolidated sleep every night. That means no waking for a drink or bathroom, no waking for/because of a baby or child.

That also means that you have to get your body into bed with enough time to get the sleep that you need.

If you’re chronically sleep deprived (as many of us are), you may actually need more than 8 hours, as your body needs to catch up on the sleep it's lost out on in the last years (or, if you’re amazing, just months) of your life.

So how do you get the sleep you need? Here are some ideas:

    • First, make sure you’re setting yourself up for success with the Five Habits For Mommies
    • Start small. Maybe it’ll mean just getting into bed 30 minutes earlier, even 20 minutes earlier. Eat the elephant bite by bite, and build up to the point that you’re getting into bed 8 hours before you have to wake up.
    • Take a nap. Remember that sleep is not the sum of its parts, so a 1.5 hour nap during the day + 6.5 hour night doesn’t necessarily equal 8 hours of consolidated sleep, but, of course, it’s better than NOT taking that nap.


  • Lower your standards for housekeeping, simcha-attending, etc. Taking care of your body is more important than an emptied sink!


Older Adult (65+)

NSF recommended range: 7-8

NSF “may be appropriate” range (higher): 9

NSF “may be appropriate” range (lower): 5-6

As adults get older, their sleep need drops slightly, with 7-8 hours being the recommended range and the overall range falling from 6-10 to 5-9.

Older adults tend to find it more difficult to sleep, sometimes due to bathroom visits, or sometimes due to other conditions or medications they may be on.

They also tend to wake earlier, defaulting to the body’s natural cycle, so it’s best for them to go to sleep earlier, too.


So now you know how much sleep you need and how much sleep your kids need. 

I challenge you to share with us: are you meeting everyone in your family’s sleep needs? And if not, what can you do differently to enable all of you to get the sleep you need?

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