Everyone is different, of course, so any guidelines on how much sleep people should be getting should be viewed only as that, as guidelines. No size fits all, so to speak, but if you’re getting less than the number of hours listed below, you could well be suffering from sleep deprivation.
The list of sleep hour requirements by age and situation:
- Infants need about 16 hours a day of sleep time
- Teenagers need 9 hours on average
- Most adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep, though some can get by on less (only 3 percent of the total population) and some may need as many as 10 hours
- Women in the first three months of pregnancy will need to sleep more
The litmus test of whether these sleep requirements suit you is how you feel in the daytime. If you feel drowsy in your waking hours, then you can safely conclude that you’re either not getting enough sleep, or not getting enough quality sleep.
Sleep deprivation can lead to serious consequences. At the minimum, sleep deprivation over time can lead to memory problems, depression, a weakening of your immune system, and an increase in your perception of pain. These consequences are in addition to the loss of focus and motivation that you will no doubt face in your daily life, whether working or staying at home to rear a family.
On the upper end of the scale, sleep deprivation can result in automobile accidents. A study of sleep-deprived individuals tested on a driving simulator, or by a hand-eye coordination challenge (what police officers often use if they pull you over for suspicious of DUI), performed as badly or worse than those who were tested intoxicated.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 56,000 motor vehicle accidents — and 1,500 highway deaths — occur each year because of driver fatigue. NHTSA warns that you’re probably too drowsy to drive if you have trouble keeping your eyes focused, can’t stop yawning and can’t remember the last few miles you drove.
And remember: Caffeine and energy drinks won’t necessarily eliminate or even reduce the effects of sleep deprivation, just mask them temporarily. You need to learn and to practice good sleep hygiene. And if you suspect you suffer from a sleep disorder, whether from allergies, nasal problems, insomnia, sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome, you need to seek professional help as soon as possible.