The science of sleep: How many hours do you need?

Conventional wisdom says eight hours is key when it comes to sleep. But recent studies show eight might not be the magic number for everyone. So how do you know you’re getting the sleep you need?

With a simple plan to track your sleeping habits, the right amount of sleep is only a night – or two – away.

track sleep

Sick of hitting snooze? Try tracking your sleep habits to understand how many hours your body needs.

Why is sleep so important?

Most of us agree that we don’t get enough of it. But that dragging, heavy-lidded feeling isn’t the only bad result of sleep deprivation – lack of sleep can lead to serious health risks. Short sleep duration is linked with overeating, diabetes and heart problems, depression and substance abuse, and an increased risk of nodding off at the wheel. (Drivers, take note: the CDC cites tiredness as a factor in up to 5,000 fatalities each year.)

What can sleep do for me?

Not only do healthy sleeping habits help reduce risk for sleep-related accidents and certain health conditions, there are also these upshots:

Sufficient shuteye offers a number of health benefits like these, says the National Sleep Foundation.

How many hours are enough?

Different people need different amounts of sleep. One factor is age: adults generally find 7–8 hours adequate, while active school-age children can require as many as 11 hours. The quality of sleep also affects the quantity you need. Older adults, who often sleep for shorter spans, or those with frequently interrupted sleep won’t feel as rested. And some research has also linked sleeping too much to higher risk for illness, accidents and mortality.

So the question is how to find the right number for you.

Get on track for better sleep.

The key to a good night’s rest? Consistency – and a plan. The National Sleep Foundation outlines a strategy that includes setting a sleep and wake schedule and a regular bedtime routine. (Permission to pamper yourself: a comfortable room, relaxing hot bath and soothing music have all been shown to lead to better shuteye.)

To establish your personal sleep schedule, try recording sleep for even just a week to help identify your circadian rhythm, or body clock. If you find yourself waking up within 10 minutes of your target wake time without the use of an alarm, that’s a good sign you’re on track to healthy sleep.

Technology can help: for example, fitness devices are widely available that offer a window into things like your daily sleep quality and hours. Walgreens’ own Balance Rewards for healthy choices™ platform lets you compare sleep to other vital health metrics, like fitness and weight, to show you how a regular sleep pattern supports your wellness goals – like healthy weight loss. (You can even sync your fitness tracker for automatic entry.)

See this previous Stay Well post for more tips for better sleep.

Balance Rewards for healthy choices™

Walgreens’ Balance Rewards for healthy choices™ program (formerly Steps) is just one tool to help you make healthy choices by rewarding you for tracking sleep, exercise, weight and more. Learn more and get started ›

  • Benjamin

    How do naps fit in? Is 7 hours sleep at night plus a 1 hour afternoon nap equal to 8 hours sleep?

  • vicky

    do you have cream for restless legs