Photo : Thomas Bresson
The National Sleep Foundation’s Expert Panel on Sleep Duration (let’s just call them the Supreme Court of Sleep) has ruled on the amount of rest you’re supposed to get and their ruling is an eye opener.
No, literally. You can have your eyes open more often now.
The new chart identifies specific age groups and suggests a broader range of sleep hours are “appropriate” based on your seniority.
I have to admit this is a disappointment. I expect the National Sleep Foundation to caution, warn and scold me about my sleep habits. In fact, I don’t even look at a report from any sleep expert unless I want to feel like a smoker – someone trapped in an unhealthy pattern of self-destructive behavior.
But reluctant snoozers will notice with some relief how the recommended amount of down time has shifted:
- Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
- Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
- Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
- Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
- School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
- Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
- Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
- Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
- Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)
Aside from those always-so-contrary “newborns”, where the “acceptable” sleep ranges have widened, they’ve been increased on the low end rather than the high. In fact, only one upper limit was moved – the one for Teenagers, who gained an extra half hour that they can claim “… is perfectly normal. I’m a teenager. Get off my back. Geez, mom!”
Of course the usual cautions about not getting enough sleep remain in the report – you can do serious damage to your health and well-being by skimping on Z’s. But the takeaway for those who want to stay up late or (horrors!) get up early – you just got a little more legit.
The big winner – Infants! They gained two hours on the front end – extra awake time to devote to thumb sucking and gently cooing at faces. That’s the best case scenario. In reality, they’ll spend it screaming for dad and smearing poop around the crib.
Toddlers, preschoolers and school age children all got an extra allowable hour of wakefulness. And geezers (65+) got their own category with the lowest upper boundary of all the age groups – eight hours.
Time to get up, grandma. Quit pretending!
I’m not sure why the sleep boundaries were “widened”, but if you look at the methodology you get an idea of what went in to crafting this new report:
Fifty-eight searches using combinations of search terms related to sleep (eg, time, duration, and sufficiency), age groups (eg, newborn, adolescent), and outcomes (eg, performance, executive function, cognition) yielded 2412 articles. The review team identified 575 articles for full-text review. Of the 575 articles, 312 met our inclusion criteria. Pertinent information (eg, sample size, study design, results) from each article was extracted and included in the literature review materials. Articles were sorted based on the strength of the study and presented in descending order in a summary chart. Expert panel members received print and electronic versions of the literature.
So members of the 18 person panel only had to wade through the particulars of 312 scientific articles to make their judgments about much sleep we need. And only a third of those panelists were sleep experts – the others came from such organizations as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of Anatomists, the American College of Chest Physicians … you can almost hear their inner deliberations …
“Do I really have to read all this? This isn’t even my real job – how did I wind up on this friggin’ panel?”
Busy people. Highly schooled people. Graduate school and PhD survivors who had other, equally important obligations, mulling over a persistent question – how much sleep do I really need? And how do I get my work done?