It is still largely a mystery why we humans need to engage in something as inactive as sleep. Among other things, sleep is believed to be necessary for the brain to be able to store memories and new information. But it is also during sleep that the body produces hormones and repairs damage that has occurred during the day. The problem is that it makes it late into the sleep cycle.

Our sleep consists of five different phases: from phase 1 when we sleep very lightly to phase 4 when we sleep very deeply and finally phase 5 when we sleep so-called REM sleep when we dream. This is why everyone in the family should keep to their sleeping routines, and tend to the quality of sleep. Make sure everyone’s bedroom is well darkened during the night hours, aired and cool, the bedding is comfortable and medically proven like an orthopedic pillow and mattress, and the screen time ends well before bedtime.

Different family members need different amount of sleep based on age

We need all the sleep cycles to feel rested during the day. But it is only from phase 3 that the actual repair process of the body begins and it then continues during phase 4. During these phases, hormones alongside with other essential substances are released, and their “mission” is too occurred to our cells during the day. You therefore need to spend a certain number of hours sleeping to reach this sleep stage that promotes repair. If you do not do this, sleep deprivation can in the long run play its role in developing, among other things, obesity, cardiovascular disease and mental problems.

How long do we have to sleep to get through all five sleep cycles? This has been looked at by a group of independent researchers on behalf of NSF, the National Sleep Foundation. And the answer is: it varies with age. But for the body to have time to recover and for us to function optimally the next day, the perfect sleep span should look like this, according to the new guidelines from NSF:

  • Newborns (0 to 3 months) 14-17 hours per day, including naps
  • Infants (4 to 11 months): 12-15 hours per day, including naps
  • Toddlers (1 to 3 years): 11-14 hours per day, including naps
  • Preschool children (3 to 5 years): 10-13 hours per day, including naps
  • Gradeschoolers (6 to 13 years): 9-11 hours
  • Teenagers (14 to 18 years): 8-10 hours
  • Young adults (18 to 25 years): 7-9 hours
  • Adults (26 to 64 years): 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): 7 to 8 hours

Children’s sleep at different ages

Children need different amounts of sleep at different ages. How well children and teenagers sleep can be affected by age, developmental stages, anxiety and relationships. For children and adolescents who grow up, sleep is of great importance because growth hormone is largely secreted during sleep.

This is how much sleep children of different ages need:

  • 0-12 months: 15-18 hours per day, but at this age there is a very big difference between different children.
  • 1-3 years: 12-14 hours per day.
  • 3–6 years: 11–12 hours per day.
  • 6–12 years: 10–11 hours per day.
  • 12 years and older: 8-9 hours per day, but some children need more sleep during puberty.

Children under three months sleep most safely in their own bed, in supine position. This dramatically reduces SIDS (sudden infant death).  Many parents find it practical and convenient to sleep with their newborn baby, especially if it helps the baby fall asleep. Many children also sleep best when they feel the presence of a parent or both close to them. Feel free to place your baby’s bed in your room and next to yours if possible. Then you can easily lift the baby over to you when it is feeding time at night. Lay the baby back to their bed when he or she goes to sleep again.

Many newborns sleep together with their parents in so-called baby nests, a mattress with soft edges. There is as yet no research on whether baby nests are safe enough for the baby. There is a certain risk that an adult may roll over the soft edges. A better alternative may be the reclining insert from the pram, which has higher and harder edges. The child should not be too hot. A pair of pajamas and a thin blanket are usually appropriate.

As we have established earlier, the exact need for sleep varies from person to person in your family, but there are few who manage with fewer hours, or who need more hours of sleep. We already know that health is threatened if you consistently sleep less than 7-8 hours. However, the need for sleep can change briefly when the body has an increased need to recover – e.g. when you are sick, stressed or exercising hard. The need for sleep is also affected by age.

If you have the opportunity to sleep undisturbed 5 days in a row, you can test your individual need for the shuteye yourself. This is how you calculate it:

  1. Be careful not to do anything that has a potential of disturbing your sleep (such as evening coffee, alcohol, or outside noise).
  2. Go to bed at your usual time.
  3. Sleep until you wake up by yourself – that is, without ringing the bell!
  4. Note how long you have slept.
  5. Repeat for about 5 days – or until you start waking up at the same time.

Result: For the first 2-3 days – if you suffer from sleep deprivation – you will probably sleep longer than you need to. But then your body will wake up when it has finished sleeping. Your need for sleep is therefore the number of hours you sleep during the last days of the test.

Be aware that the test requires that you are not in a period of stress, anxiety or anything else that makes it difficult for you to fall asleep or wake up several times during the night.

The bottom line is, a disorder in sleep is as a legitimate condition as a physical ailment, and you need to troubleshoot if you or everyone else from your near and dear is experiencing it. The first step in this direction is to make some minor lifestyle changes that will go a long way!

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