We need a certain amount of sleep in order to start the day relaxed and refreshed in the morning. Since we spend about a third of our lives sleeping, it's worth taking a closer look at the topic of sleep. But how much sleep do I need and what factors does the optimal amount of sleep depend on? Is it possible to sleep too much or does sleep always have a positive effect on the body, no matter how long?
In this article, we’ll answer all the important questions about sleep and show you how the need for sleep can change with age. In addition, we’ll give you helpful tips so that you can fall asleep quickly and get the right amount of sleep, too.
Why is sleep so important?
Sleep isn't only important for our body, but also for our brain. While we sleep, our brain goes over the day's events; the most important information is eventually stored in our long-term memory. Also, the brain sorts important nerve connections from the unimportant. This is how our brain creates new connections of what it has learned.
Those who don’t get enough sleep usually have a hard time remembering and recalling new information. In addition, good sleep can also improve our ability to concentrate. Our perception is sharper, we’re more creative and better able to orient ourselves.
The body recovers during sleep by releasing different growth hormones. This hormone is mainly released in the deep phases of sleep, which is why how long we sleep isn’t the only important thing, but also how deeply we sleep.
In addition, good sleep boosts our immune system. Our body breaks down harmful and pathogenic substances at night, which helps us stay protected against infections. A study by the University of Tübingen and the University of Lübeck in Germany found that sleep deprivation reduces the immune system's ability to kill infected cells.
How much sleep do I need?
There are many myths surrounding the topic of sleep and the amount of sleep that we need. How much sleep does an adult need in order to start the day refreshed? Generally, adults need about seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Since the amount of sleep we need depends on our age, we have summarised the optimal sleep duration in a table for you:
- Newborns (0 to 3 months): about 14 to 17 hours of sleep.
- Babies (4 to 11 months): about 12 to 15 hours of sleep
- Toddlers (1 to 2 years): about 11 to 14 hours of sleep
- Preschoolers (3 to 5 years): about 10 to 13 hours of sleep
- School children (6 to 13 years): about 9 to 11 hours of sleep
- Teenagers (14 to 17 years): about 8 to 10 hours of sleep
- Young adults and adults (18 to 64 years): about 7 to 9 hours of sleep
- Older people (over 65 years): about 7 to 8 hours of sleep
An often-asked question related to the right amount of sleep is whether we can catch up on lost sleep. Unfortunately, studies have found that sleep deficits are hard to make up over the weekend. In these studies, sleep-deprived subjects’ ability to concentrate decreased; likewise, their insulin resistance was negatively impacted and they gained weight over the course of these experiments.
The studies showed that too much sleep can also have a negative effect on the body, however. Certain health risks, especially heart disease, increase with too much sleep, so it's best to stick with seven to eight hours of sleep per night.
Do older people really need less sleep?
As mentioned earlier, our sleep patterns change as we age. Older people’s bedtimes shift and they start going to bed earlier in the day. This is no cause for concern, but rather part of the natural process of getting older.
As we age, our deep sleep phases become shorter, while our light sleep phases become longer. As a result, seniors are more easily woken up and have a harder time sleeping through the night than young people. That said, seniors should still get at least seven hours of sleep per night, because sleep is particularly important for the elderly.
To help prevent themselves from falling asleep too early, seniors can lie down at noon and take a short nap. Sufficient sleep is important for brain health and can help prevent illness in old age.
The individual sleep phases
Our sleep can be divided into five sleep phases, namely the falling asleep phase, the light sleep phase, the medium deep sleep phase, deep sleep phase and dream sleep phase. Different processes take place in our body during the different phases, which is why we should go through each of these phases several times a night.
The deep sleep phase, which accounts for about 12 to 15% of our sleep, is particularly important for good quality sleep. This is where our body is able to reach a state of total relaxation and can recover from the stresses and strains of the day.
Bedtime for babies
Babies need a lot of sleep during the day. To know when to put your baby to bed, you should pay attention to certain signals. Tired babies quickly become irritable, rub their eyes or start crying. If you recognise these signs, your baby should be put down as soon as possible, otherwise they’ll soon become overstimulated and won’t be able to fall asleep.
Toddlers aged two sleep from twelve to thirteen hours a day. Their bedtime should be based on the time they get up - if they need ten hours of sleep and have to get up at seven in the morning, they should go to bed no later than nine at night.
Zizzz products to help make your sleep more restful
At Zizzz, we offer various products to make your sleep as relaxing as possible. For example, we offer down duvets with ethically-sourced down, or our breathable wool duvets made with wool from sheep raised in the Swiss Alps.
Of course, we’ve haven’t forgotten about the children! We also carry children's duvets made from Swiss virgin wool and 100% organic cotton. These not only ensure an optimal sleeping environment, but also feel particularly soft on children's delicate skin. Our products have been awarded the GOTS seal; to keep our transport routes as short as possible, we focus on manufacturing our products in Europe. By buying a product made with pure virgin Swiss wool, you are not only helping the environment, but also supporting Swiss farmers in maintaining the Swiss Alps, as controlled grazing helps to prevent erosion.