How much sleep do you and your students need? Group revises recommendations

Panel reviewed over 300 journal articles on sleep duration

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) has released revised sleep recommendations for every age group, creating distinct sleep categories for young adults and elderly adults for the first time.

The recommendations were published in the foundation's journal, Sleep Health, and are the result of a comprehensive literature review undertaken by a panel of experts. Overall, the 18-member panel reviewed 312 journal articles on sleep published between 2004 and 2014.

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Lauren Hale, editor of the journal and associate professor of preventive medicine at Stony Brook University, says the group's recommendations are the most comprehensive ever published. "There has been a shortage of scientific expert panels on the topic of sleep duration," Hale said.

A spokesperson for the foundation notes that there had previously been sleep recommendations posted on the organizations website, but they were "a bit dated." The new recommendations also include an expanded window of recommended sleep which "may be appropriate," in addition to the standard guidelines by age.

The panel recommended the following sleep amounts:

  • Zero to three months of age: 14 to 17 hours (changed from 12-18 hours in early recommendations)
  • Four to 11 months of age: 12 to 15 hours (changed from 14-15 hours)
  • One to two years of age: 11 to 14 hours (changed from 12-14 hours)
  • Three to five years of age: 10 to 13 hours (changed from 11-13 hours)
  • Six to 13 years of age: Nine to 11 hours (changed from 10-11 hours)
  • 14 to 17 years of age: Eight to 10 hours (changed from 8.5 to 9.5 hours)
  • 18 to 25 years of age: Seven to nine hours (new category)
  • 26 to 64 years of age: Seven to nine hours (no change)
  • 65 and older: Seven to eight hours (new category)

For some ages, the panel's recommendations differ from guidelines from NIH. For instance, NIH recommends that newborns get 16 to 18 hours of sleep.

Most surveys show Americans are not getting adequate rest based on either the NIH or NSF guidelines. A 2013 Gallup poll found the average adult American got only 6.8 hours of sleep, and CDC has called insufficient rest a public health epidemic. According to Hale, research clearly shows how too little sleep can hurt health.  

"Sleeping too little and too much are both associated with increased risk of mortality and a range of other adverse health issues: Cardiovascular disease, possibly cancer, and also impaired psychological well-being," she says (Izadi, Washington Post, 1/3; Deutsch, USA Today, 2/3; CBS News, 2/2; Hamblin, The Atlantic, 2/2).


The takeaway: The new guidelines may relieve parents who had been worried that their children were not getting enough sleep based on earlier guidelines. But even with the revisions, data suggest that Americans are not getting enough sleep

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