A national panel of sleep experts released new recommendations Monday that call for more hours of sleep for most young people.
The National Sleep Foundation, a nonprofit aimed at promoting healthy sleep and safety, says the amount of sleep a person needs is highly variable and that some people need more than others. Still, the new hour ranges for each age group recommend more hours for infants, kids, and teens:
- 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)
The Power of Sleep
To come up with the new recommendations, the foundation put together a panel of 18 scientists and researchers from prominent medical associations in the United States and asked them to review over 300 studies on how much sleep is ideal. The panel then voted on how much sleep is appropriate for different ages. Getting too little sleep and getting too much sleep are both unhealthy behaviors that can lead to a variety of consequences from grogginess to weight gain.
Effects of Sleep Deprivation on the Body
When you’re deprived of sleep, your brain can’t function properly, affecting your cognitive abilities and emotional state. If it continues long enough, it can lower your body’s defenses, putting you at risk of developing chronic illness.
Central Nervous System
Your central nervous system is the information highway of your body. Sleep is necessary to keep it functioning properly. During sleep, the brain rests busy neurons and forms new pathways so you're ready to face the world in the morning. In children and young adults, the brain releases growth hormones during sleep. While you’re sleeping, your body is also producing proteins that help cells repair the damage.
Sleep deprivation leaves the brain exhausted, so it can’t perform its duties well. The most obvious effect is sleepiness. You may find yourself yawning a lot and feeling sluggish. Lack of sleep interferes with your ability to concentrate and learn new things. It can negatively impact both short-term and long-term memory. It gets in the way of your decision-making process and stifles creativity. Your emotions are also affected, making you more likely to have a short temper and mood swings. The overall cognitive function is impaired.
When you’re sleeping, your immune system produces protective cytokines and infection-fighting antibodies and cells. It uses these tools to fight off foreign substances like bacteria and viruses. These cytokines and other protective substances also help you sleep, giving the immune system more energy to defend against illness.
Since sleep deprivation can weaken your immune system, you’re more vulnerable to respiratory problems like the common cold and influenza. If you already have a chronic lung disease, sleep deprivation is likely to make it worse.
According to Harvard Medical School, a few studies have found a link between lack of sleep and weight gain. Along with eating too much and not exercising, sleep deprivation is one of the risk factors for obesity.
Sleep deprivation increases production of the stress hormone cortisol. Lack of sleep lowers your levels of a hormone called leptin, which tells your brain that you’ve had enough to eat. In addition, it raises levels of a biochemical called ghrelin, which is an appetite stimulant.
Sleep plays a vital role in your body’s ability to heal and repair your blood vessels and heart. Sleep deprivation can lead to higher risk of chronic health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. According to Harvard Medical School, for people with hypertension, one night without enough sleep can cause elevated blood pressure all through the next day.
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