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Sleep on It: Recommended Amount of Sleep by Age

Having sufficient amount of sleep is essential to a healthy lifestyle. How many hours of sleep do our children need and how much can we settle for without a cost to our health?

What is the recommended amount of sleep for various age groups?

Two agencies that play a key role in sleep-related policymaking, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and the National Sleep Foundation, published their recommendations based on expert opinions from 2015. Below are the recommendations of the National Sleep Foundation. Points of major differences of opinion between the Foundation and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine are marked with asterisks:

  • Ages 0-3 months: 14 hours and up to 17* 
  • Ages 4-11 months: 12 hours and up to 15
  • Ages 1-2 years: 11-14 hours 
  • Ages 3-5 years: 10-13 hours 
  • Ages 6-13 years: 9-11 hours
  • Ages 14-17 years: 8-10 hours 
  • Ages 18-64 years: 7-9 hours 
  • Ages 65 and older: 7-8 hours** 

* The Academy does not recommend specific sleeping hours for this age group, since there is too much variation in sleep duration and patterns between babies to determine an average for all babies. Furthermore, there is insufficient data on the implications of various sleep durations on babies' health.
** The Academy does not differentiate between adults with regard to the recommended sleep durations.

Data on adult sleeping habits in Israel

In 2017, the Central Bureau of Statistics conducted a survey about the lifestyle of 7,300 individuals aged 20 and older, representing 5.5 million Israelis. Among other things, respondents were asked about their sleeping habits. It turns out that the average Israeli does not get enough sleep: 17% of respondents sleep fewer than 6 hours and 29% sleep fewer than 7 hours. That is to say, nearly half of all Israelis do not reach the 7+ sleeping hours that the AASM recommends as a basis for good health.

The implications of sleep deprivation

Children: Sleep is essential for physical, psychological and cognitive development. Sleep deprivation may adversely affect growth, attention and concentration skills, memory and other cognitive faculties. Naturally, this disruption may compromise school performance. It may also compromise self-control and cause agitation, difficulties in emotional self-regulation and increased risky behaviors (including unprotected sex), aggressive behaviors and even violent behaviors. It also adversely affects a variety of processes related to metabolism and the secretion of hormones in the body. Correlation was also found between sleep deprivation and a tendency for obesity. 

Adults: Adverse effects to the cognitive faculties in adults are similar to those described in children. However, since adults occupy positions of high responsibility, decisions made under "sleep deficit" conditions may be disastrous. Ongoing sleep deprivation may also increase secretion of the stress hormone, cortisol, throughout all hours of the day. As a result, such conditions as obesity, hypertension, damages to the cardiovascular system and even diabetes may occur. Sleep deprivation is also a risk factor for dementia. Interpersonal relations (including marital bonds) and general quality of life are similarly adversely affected when we do not meet the recommended daily sleep duration. There is no wonder that there is a strong link between sleep deprivation and depression and anxiety disorders.        

Sleep deprivation affects our attention, vigilance, alertness and judgment. Therefore, it is a major risk factor for accidents of all kinds: At home, at work and on the road. Indeed, in the survey by the Central Bureau of Statistics cited above, 14% of respondents reported that they feel a lot of fatigue during the day and 34% admit that their performance is affected by fatigue (6% report that their performance is significantly affected!).

We will end this section with something important and current: Sleep deprivation weakens the immune system. Studies have shown that people who did not get enough sleep were more likely to be infected with influenza virus. While the matter has yet to be clinically tested, it is highly likely that this is the same situation with regard to the body's ability to face coronavirus! 

Practical recommendation

Unfortunately, we are not good judges of our own decreased capacity due to sleep deprivation. Therefore, in order to maintain our good health and optimal performance, it is important that we set aside enough time to sleep as many hours as we need according to the recommended duration for our age group!

Further reading

Recommendations of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine for adults
Recommendations of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine for children and teenagers
Recommendations of the National Sleep Foundation
Selected sleep-related data from the 2017 social survey (HE)
Short- and long-term consequences of sleep disruption. Nature and Science of Sleep 2017:9 151–161