Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Subscribe to the Magazine for free
Subscribe for free to keep reading! If you are already subscribed, enter your email address to log back in.
Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Are you a healthcare practitioner?
Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Sleep Requirements by Age Group & Why It's Important

Medically reviewed by 
Sleep Requirements by Age Group & Why It's Important

You spend one-third of your life sleeping. Even still, most do not get the recommended amount of sleep they need. Sleep deprivation has been labeled a “public health epidemic” and is linked to a wide range of medical issues. Understanding the intricacies of sleep requirements at various life stages is paramount for health. In this article, we will delve into the specific sleep needs of different age groups and illuminate the profound implications of not meeting these requirements.


Understanding Sleep and Its Phases

The precise purpose of sleep continues to elude complete understanding, but a wealth of evidence underscores its indispensable role in maintaining optimal health. Numerous studies have revealed a correlation between inadequate sleep and adverse health outcomes, emphasizing the importance of this physiological phenomenon. During sleep, the body engages in crucial functions, which can be broadly categorized as energy conservation, self-repair, and brain maintenance.

When we sleep, the brain cycles between two different types of sleep: non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) and REM. Non-REM is the first part of the sleep cycle and consists of three stages. Stage 1 (lasting several minutes) marks the transition from wakefulness to sleep, during which heartbeat, breathing, eye movements, and brain waves slow. Stage 2, accounting for 45% of your time asleep, involves light sleep with limited eye movement. The heart and breathing continue to slow, muscles relax, body temperature drops, and eye movements stop. Brain waves slow but have brief bursts of electrical activity, believed to be from the brain consolidating memories. Stage 3 is characterized by deep sleep and is required to feel energized in the morning, support immune function, and repair injuries. Babies and children need more time in stage 3 sleep. (6, 9

As the name suggests, REM sleep is characterized by rapid eye movements and brain activity that mirrors wakefulness. Arm and leg muscles enter a state of temporary paralysis; breathing becomes fast and irregular; and heart rate and blood pressure increase to waking levels. REM sleep makes up roughly one-quarter of total time asleep and is when most vivid dreams occur. The initial REM cycle during sleep occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep and is brief, approximately 10 minutes. REM sleep supports cognitive function, memory consolidation, and emotional processing. As you age, less time you spend sleeping is spent in REM sleep. (6, 9)  

The sleep cycle then repeats itself. On average, the brain completes four or five cycles. With each cycle, the body spends less time in deep sleep and more time in REM sleep. (47

Circadian rhythms, intrinsic biological cycles, govern the sleep-wake cycle and sleep patterns. Regulated by the suprachiasmatic nucleus in the brain, these rhythms synchronize with external cues, like light and darkness. Melatonin, a hormone released in response to darkness, promotes sleep onset. Disruptions to circadian rhythms, often seen in shift work or irregular schedules, can lead to sleep disorders.

Sleep Requirements: Newborns to Infants (0-12 months)

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) offers recommendations for children's total daily sleep needs by age group, but it is important to remember that individual sleep requirements for youngsters can vary slightly depending on temperament and developmental differences. For example, babies born prematurely require more sleep than babies born at full term. Sufficient sleep is crucial for babies as it directly influences their growth, brain development, and immune function during this critical developmental period. (45

Newborns (0-3 months) require 14-17 hours of sleep daily. The average newborn sleeps 8-9 hours in the daytime and a total of eight hours at night but may not sleep for more than a couple of consecutive hours. It is rare for newborns to sleep throughout the night without waking up. Infants (4-12 months) require 12-16 hours of sleep. Infants may begin sleeping through the night by 3-4 months; however, daytime naps still account for most sleep time for this age group. (31, 45)

Despite the importance of sleep, this age group often faces sleep challenges. These include irregular sleep patterns, night awakenings, need for frequent feedings, and difficulty self-soothing. Not all babies can create their sleeping and waking patterns. Additionally, starting at about six months old, babies will often begin to wake during the night due to separation anxiety. Caregivers can help babies fall asleep by recognizing the signs of sleep readiness, establishing sleep habits and routines, and teaching them to fall asleep independently. (22, 31

Babies can show signs of being ready for sleep by rubbing their eyes, looking away, yawning, and fussing. Caregivers can help babies fall asleep by creating a bedtime routine with bathtime, reading books, rocking, and listening to music. Reduce stimulation and playtime activities close to bedtime. Allow consistent time for naps during the day to establish a regular sleep schedule. Encourage self-soothing skills to teach babies to settle themselves back to sleep when they wake during the night. (22, 31

Sleep Requirements: Toddlers to Preschoolers (1-5 years)

Sleep continues to play a crucial role in the development of toddlers and young children. Adequate sleep is important for growth, mood, alertness, attention, cognitive performance and development, learning, and memory. Napping in toddlers is required for memory consolidation, selective attention, and motor skills. (34

Sleep problems are reported in one-quarter of children under 5. Sleep deprivation in early childhood is linked to ADHD-mimicking behaviors, allergies, anxiety, depression, and increased risk for future development of obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. (3

It is recommended that toddlers (1-2 years) and preschool-aged children (3-5 years) get 11-14 and 10-13 hours of sleep every day, respectively. As children get older, napping frequency and duration decrease. (45) Besides transitioning out of naps, sleep challenges in this age group often revolve around bedtime resistance. To manage these sleep problems, caregivers should promote good sleep hygiene with a sleep-promoting environment and bedtime routine throughout childhood. Bedtime strategies to overcome sleep challenges may include giving children control over bedtime choices, such as which pajamas to wear or books to read. Establish consistent sleep schedules, helping the child wake up and go to bed around the same time every day. (34

Sleep Requirements: School-Age Children (6-12 years)

School-age sleep needs vary between 9-12 hours per 24-hour period. Younger kids in this age group will require more sleep than older children approaching high school. Unfortunately, according to a national survey conducted by the CDC, nearly 60% of middle school students slept less than nine hours per night. Children who get insufficient sleep have a higher risk of obesity, diabetes, injuries, and poor mental health. They are also more likely to have attention and behavior problems, which can lead to poor academic performance. (42, 46

School-age children have busy schedules between academic, extracurricular, and social obligations, making it difficult to get enough sleep. Furthermore, evidence suggests that young children's growing use of technology negatively impacts their sleep quality. Blue light emitted from electronic screens blunts melatonin secretion and shifts normal circadian rhythm patterns, disrupting sleep patterns. (34)

Whenever possible, continue to encourage a consistent sleep schedule and wind-down bedtime routine. Have children do homework and non-sleeping activities outside the bedroom to strengthen the association between the bedroom and sleep. Minimize exposure to light by turning off electronics and bright lights at least one hour before bed. (34

Sleep Requirements: Teenagers (13-17 years)

Adolescents aged 13-17 typically need 8-10 hours of sleep per night. Sleep is pivotal for brain function (affecting attention, memory, analytical thought, and creativity), sharper thinking, and learning consolidation. Lack of sufficient sleep in teens leads to excessive drowsiness and attention deficits, adversely affecting academic performance. Emotionally, sleep deprivation induces irritability and exaggerated emotional reactions, potentially affecting teens' adaptation to independence and new social relationships, increasing the risk of interpersonal conflict and mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Physically, sleep strengthens the immune system, regulates hormones, and enables tissue recovery, impacting physical development and lowering the risk of chronic disease. Sleep deprivation increases the likelihood of impulsive and high-risk behaviors. It raises the risk of accidents, particularly concerning unsafe driving, due to reduced reaction time comparable to that of significant alcohol consumption. 

Unfortunately, seven out of ten high school students do not get enough sleep (i.e., at least eight hours) during the week. Biologically, this can be explained by a shift that teens experience in their sleep-wake cycle due to changes in slower sleep drive and melatonin production, leading to a natural inclination towards later bedtimes. This conflicts with early school start times, creating a misalignment between the biological sleep needs of teens and the demands of academic schedules. (46

To address this issue, advocating for later school start times aligning with the natural sleep patterns of adolescents is crucial. Such adjustments can improve teenagers' academic performance, mental health, and well-being. However, until these changes are implemented, families can foster a supportive environment by modeling healthy sleep habits and creating a nighttime home environment conducive to sleep. 

Sleep Requirements: Adults (18-64 years)

Healthy adults need at least seven hours of sleep per night. Sleep is non-negotiable for all aspects of health, with overwhelming evidence available to support the connection between sleep loss and poor health outcomes extending to the cardiovascular, endocrine, immune, and nervous systems. While sleeping more is not necessarily bad (and necessary in some cases – such as recovering from injury or illness), some evidence links long sleep duration (greater than nine hours) with increased overall cardiovascular disease incident rates in adults older than 50. For this reason, sleep recommendations for adults ages 18-64 have been set for 7-9 hours.

Adults often face various disruptions to their sleep, including work stress, parenting responsibilities, and health issues. The demands of a challenging job or career-related stressors can lead to insomnia and disrupted sleep patterns. Parenting responsibilities can result in frequent awakenings and overall sleep disturbances. Health issues such as chronic pain, sleep disorders, or mental health conditions can contribute to sleep difficulties. To enhance sleep quality, adults can establish a consistent sleep routine, creating a calming pre-sleep environment. Managing stress through relaxation techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises, can alleviate work-related concerns and other stressors. Seeking support from a partner or sharing parenting duties to ensure both parents get adequate rest can be beneficial. Addressing health concerns with healthcare professionals and exploring treatments, if necessary, is crucial for improving overall sleep quality. Prioritizing self-care, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and being mindful of screen time before bedtime are also effective strategies to promote better sleep among adults.

Sleep Requirements: Older Adults (65+ years)

As individuals age, they experience significant changes to their circadian rhythms and sleep architecture that predispose them to changes in sleep patterns. The body's circadian rhythms naturally shift forward, called a phase advance, leading to feeling more tired earlier in the afternoon and waking up earlier in the morning. At the same time, the architecture of the sleep stages changes, and less time is spent in deep, restorative sleep. This leads to older adults waking up more frequently and having less restful sleep.

It's a misconception that older adults need less sleep. The sleep requirements for adults aged 65 and older typically range from 7-8 hours per night. However, in addition to the biological changes described above, other factors can lead to sleep disruptions in older adults. Health problems, such as chronic pain, arthritis, depression, and cardiovascular disease, can contribute to discomfort and difficulty staying asleep. Additionally, polypharmacy, the concurrent use of multiple medications, is prevalent among older adults and can introduce side effects impacting sleep quality. (32

Addressing these factors through comprehensive healthcare management, lifestyle modifications, and medication reviews can significantly improve sleep outcomes for older individuals, promoting better overall well-being in their golden years. Older adults who exercise regularly fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and get better quality sleep. Research has reported that 20-60% of older adults nap during the day; patients should be advised to avoid long naps, especially later in the day, to prevent making it harder to fall asleep at bedtime. 

The Consequences of Sleep Deprivation

Failing to meet recommended sleep requirements poses profound consequences across various aspects of health, leading to a cascade of effects on mental well-being, chronic disease risk, and overall quality of life. In the short term, inadequate sleep hampers cognitive function, impairs memory consolidation, and diminishes attention and decision-making abilities. This can result in decreased productivity, increased irritability, and heightened stress levels, impacting mental health and daily functioning. (28

Over the long term, persistent sleep deprivation significantly elevates the risk of chronic diseases. Cardiovascular conditions, including hypertension and heart disease, are more prevalent among those with insufficient sleep. Moreover, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases due to disruptions in glucose metabolism. The immune system's effectiveness is compromised, rendering individuals more susceptible to infections and cancers. (28

Mental health is profoundly affected by chronic sleep deprivation, with higher rates of anxiety, depression, mood disorders, and suicidality observed in individuals with persistent inadequate sleep. Sleep deficiency has also been linked to an increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's.

Quality of life is significantly diminished when sleep requirements are consistently unmet. Poorer physical, mental, and emotional aspects of health collectively contribute to a lower quality of life. The impact is not limited to individual health but extends to societal implications. Widespread sleep deprivation places a substantial burden on healthcare systems and the economy due to increased healthcare costs, reduced productivity, and elevated accident rates. Societal consequences include impaired decision-making at various levels and heightened risks in professions requiring alertness, such as transportation and healthcare.

Addressing the societal implications of sleep deprivation necessitates prioritizing sleep health in public health initiatives, workplace policies, and educational programs to foster a culture that recognizes the importance of sufficient sleep for the well-being of individuals and society as a whole.

Promoting Healthy Sleep Across the Lifespan

Healthcare professionals and educators are pivotal in supporting communities to achieve better sleep health through education, awareness, and proactive interventions. Firstly, healthcare professionals can disseminate evidence-based information about the importance of sleep and its impact on overall health. They can provide personalized advice on sleep hygiene, address sleep disorders, and guide individuals toward healthy sleep practices. Routine screenings for sleep-related issues during healthcare visits can help identify problems early on, allowing for timely interventions.

Educators have a unique opportunity to incorporate sleep education into school curricula. By integrating information about the importance of sleep, sleep hygiene practices, and the consequences of sleep deprivation, educators can empower students to prioritize and maintain healthy sleep habits. Fostering a school culture that values and supports sufficient sleep can positively influence students' well-being and academic performance. 

Healthcare professionals and educators can advocate for policies that support sleep health at the community and institutional levels. This may include promoting reasonable school start times, creating workplace policies that prioritize employee well-being, and encouraging community initiatives emphasizing the importance of sleep.


Key Takeaways

Quality sleep is non-negotiable for optimal health and longevity. Prioritizing sleep begins with understanding the age-specific sleep requirements. From infants to older adults, each age group has unique sleep needs that, when met, contribute to overall well-being. Prioritizing sleep as a fundamental aspect of a healthy lifestyle is essential, recognizing its profound impact on mental and physical health. It is crucial to foster a culture that values sufficient and restful sleep. Individuals facing sleep challenges are encouraged to seek support from healthcare. By acknowledging the significance of age-appropriate sleep, individuals can proactively embrace healthy sleep habits, promoting a holistic approach to well-being across the lifespan.

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement or making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
Learn More
No items found.

Lab Tests in This Article

No items found.


  1. Alnawwar, M. A., Alraddadi, M. I., Algethmi, R. A., et al. (2023). The Effect of Physical Activity on Sleep Quality and Sleep Disorder: A Systematic Review. Cureus, 15(8).
  2. Badri, M., Alkhaili, M., Aldhaheri, H., et al. (2023). From good sleep to health and to quality of life – a path analysis of determinants of sleep quality of working adults in Abu Dhabi. Sleep Science and Practice, 7(1).
  3. Bathory, E., & Tomopoulos, S. (2017). Sleep Regulation, Physiology and Development, Sleep Duration and Patterns, and Sleep Hygiene in Infants, Toddlers, and Preschool-Age Children. Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care, 47(2), 29–42.
  4. Bertagna, B. (2024, January 11). The Science Behind Meditation and Sleep: How Mindfulness Practices Improve Sleep Quality. Rupa Health.
  5. Bir, K. (2023, February 21). Influence of technology on sleep among young children. McGovern Medical School.
  6. Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep. (2022, September 26). National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
  7. Cespedes Feliciano, E. M., Quante, M., Rifas-Shiman, S. L., et al. (2018). Objective Sleep Characteristics and Cardiometabolic Health in Young Adolescents. Pediatrics, 142(1), e20174085.
  8. Chattu, V., Manzar, M., Kumary, S., et al. (2018). The Global Problem of Insufficient Sleep and Its Serious Public Health Implications. Healthcare, 7(1), 1. NCBI.
  9. Cleveland Clinic. (2023, June 19). Sleep. Cleveland Clinic.
  10. Cloyd, J. (2023, March 15). The relationship between the sleep stress cycle. Rupa Health.
  11. Cloyd, J. (2023, September 25). An Integrative Medicine Approach to Understanding Sleep's Role in a Healthy Immune System. Rupa Health.
  12. Cloyd, J. (2024, February 8). Functional Medicine for Enhancing Gut Health in Shift Workers: Tackling Irregular Schedules. Rupa Health.
  13. Colten, H. R., & Altevogt, B. M. (Eds.). (2006). Extent and Health Consequences of Chronic Sleep Loss and Sleep Disorders. In Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem. National Academies Press (US).
  14. Cui, H., Xu, R., Wan, Y., et al. (2023). Relationship of sleep duration with incident cardiovascular outcomes: a prospective study of 33,883 adults in a general population. BMC Public Health, 23(1).
  15. Dutil, C., & Chaput, J-P. (2017). Inadequate sleep as a contributor to type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents. Nutrition & Diabetes, 7(5), e266–e266.
  16. Edwards, B., O'Driscoll, D., Ali, A., et al. (2010). Aging and Sleep: Physiology and Pathophysiology. Seminars in Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 31(05), 618–633.
  17. Haack, M., Simpson, N., Sethna, N., et al. (2019). Sleep deficiency and chronic pain: potential underlying mechanisms and clinical implications. Neuropsychopharmacology, 45(1), 205–216.
  18. Hochadel, J., Frölich, J., Wiater, A., et al. (2014). Prevalence of Sleep Problems and Relationship between Sleep Problems and School Refusal Behavior in School-Aged Children in Children's and Parents' Ratings. Psychopathology, 47(2), 119–126.
  19. How Much Sleep Do I Need? (2022, September 14). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  20. How Sleep Deprivation Impacts Mental Health. (2022, March 16). Columbia University Department of Psychiatry; Columbia University.
  21. How Sleep Works - How Much Sleep Is Enough? (2022, March 24). NHLBI; NIH.
  22. Infant Sleep. (2019). Stanford Children’s Health.
  23. Jernelöv, S., Lekander, M., Almqvist, C., et al. (2013). Development of atopic disease and disturbed sleep in childhood and adolescence - a longitudinal population-based study. Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 43(5), 552–559.
  24. Kim, S. J., Benloucif, S., Reid, K. J., et al. (2013). Phase-shifting response to light in older adults. The Journal of Physiology, 592(1), 189–202.
  25. Le Cornu Knight, F., & Dimitriou, D. (2017). Poor Sleep Has Negative Implications for Children With and Without ADHD, but in Different Ways. Behavioral Sleep Medicine, 17(4), 423–436.
  26. Maholy, N. (2023, July 17). Top Labs to Run Bi-Annually on Your Patients Experiencing Sleep Disorders. Rupa Health.
  27. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017). Child sleep: Put preschool bedtime problems to rest. Mayo Clinic.
  28. McMakin, D. L., Dahl, R. E., Buysse, D. J., et al. (2016). The impact of experimental sleep restriction on affective functioning in social and nonsocial contexts among adolescents. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 57(9), 1027–1037.
  29. Medic, G., Wille, M., & Hemels, M. (2017). Short- and long-term Health Consequences of Sleep Disruption. Nature and Science of Sleep, 9(9), 151–161.
  30. Module 2. The Color of the Light Affects Circadian Rhythms. (2020, April 2). CDC; NIOSH.
  31. Newborn Sleep Patterns. Johns Hopkins Medicine.
  32. Newsom, R. (2022, March 18). Aging and Sleep. Sleep Foundation.
  33. Owen, J. E., & Veasey, S. C. (2020). Impact of sleep disturbances on neurodegeneration: Insight from studies in animal models. Neurobiology of Disease, 139, 104820.
  34. Pacheco, D. (2020, September 24). Children and Sleep. Sleep Foundation.
  35. Pacheco, D. (2022, January 12). What Is NREM Sleep? Sleep Foundation.
  36. Paruthi, S. (2016). Recommended Amount of Sleep for Pediatric Populations: A Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 12(06), 785–786.
  37. Perez-Lloret, S., Videla, A. J., Richaudeau, A., et al. (2013). A Multi-Step Pathway Connecting Short Sleep Duration to Daytime Somnolence, Reduced Attention, and Poor Academic Performance: An Exploratory Cross-Sectional Study in Teenagers. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 09(05).
  38. Roberts, R. E., & Duong, H. T. (2014). The Prospective Association between Sleep Deprivation and Depression among Adolescents. Sleep, 37(2), 239–244.
  39. Shaik, L., Cheema, M. S., Subramanian, S., et al. (2022). Sleep and Safety among Healthcare Workers: The Effect of Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Sleep Deprivation on Safety. Medicina, 58(12), 1723.
  40. Sio, U. N., Monaghan, P., & Ormerod, T. (2013). Sleep on it, but only if it is difficult: effects of sleep on problem solving. Memory & Cognition, 41(2), 159–166.
  41. Sleep and Health. (2019). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  42. Sleep in Middle and High School Students. (2020, September 10). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  43. Summer, J. (2021, December 16). REM Sleep Revealed: Enhance Your Sleep Quality. Sleep Foundation.
  44. Suni, E. (2020, September 18). Mental health and sleep. Sleep Foundation.
  45. Suni, E. (2020, September 24). How Much Sleep Do Babies and Kids Need? Sleep Foundation.
  46. Suni, E. (2023, October 4). Sleep and Teens. Sleep Foundation.
  47. The Science of Sleep: Understanding What Happens When You Sleep. (2019). Johns Hopkins Medicine.
  48. Troxel, W. M. (2018, March 12). Teens Are Driving Drowsy Every Day, and That's Dangerous. RAND.
  49. Weinberg, J. L. (2023, December 19). The Science of Sleep: Functional Medicine for Restorative Sleep. Rupa Health.
  50. What the Science Tells Us About Adolescent Sleep. (2023). UCLA Center for the Developing Adolescent.
  51. Yoshimura, H. (2023, October 11). An Integrative Medicine Approach to Circadian Rhythm Disorders. Rupa Health.
  52. Zhang, Z., Xiao, X., Ma, W., et al. (2020). Napping in Older Adults: a Review of Current Literature. Current Sleep Medicine Reports, 6(3), 129–135.
Subscribe to the Magazine for free. to keep reading!
Subscribe for free to keep reading, If you are already subscribed, enter your email address to log back in.
Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Are you a healthcare practitioner?
Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.