How much sleep do you really need?

How much sleep you need depends on factors such as age and health status. You may need to experiment to find your personal sweet spot. By Mayo Clinic Staff

You've heard the standard advice: Get eight hours of sleep a night. But is that true across the board? The answer seems to be that it depends.

Age

As you would expect, infants and toddlers need the most sleep — nine to 10 hours at night plus naps during the day. School-age children, including teens, do best with nine to 11 hours a night. Most adults require seven to eight hours of sleep each night.

While older adults need about the same amount of sleep as younger adults, older adults tend to sleep more lightly and for shorter periods than do younger adults. Older adults often compensate by spending more time in bed at night or napping during the day.

Pregnancy

Changes in a woman's body during early pregnancy can increase the need for sleep. Yet pregnancy symptoms, including nausea and vomiting, frequent urination, back pain, leg cramps, and heartburn, may make it difficult to sleep.

Health problems and medications

People who have chronic asthma or bronchitis tend to have more problems falling asleep and staying asleep than healthy people, either because of their breathing difficulties or because of their medications. Other chronic painful or uncomfortable conditions — such as arthritis, congestive heart failure, gastric reflux and sickle cell anemia — also can make it hard to get enough sleep.

Certain commonly used prescription and over-the-counter medicines contain ingredients that can keep you awake. These ingredients include decongestants and steroids. Heart and blood pressure medications known as beta blockers can make it difficult to fall asleep and can cause more awakenings during the night.

Sep. 28, 2013 See more In-depth