How Much Sleep Do I Need, Really? 5 Factors to Know

Not sure how much sleep you need? These 5 key factors will help you figure out your perfect sleep schedule.

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Ever notice your sleep patterns are very different from others you know? Or that yours have changed over time?

The truth is, sleep isn't one-size-fits-all.

We all need quality sleep to stay healthy, happy, focused, and energized. But, how much sleep you need depends on several factors, like your age, health, and more. As you and your lifestyle change, your sleep needs change, too.

By better understanding your body and its needs, you can determine how much sleep will have you feeling your best.

We'll explain the 5 key factors influencing how much sleep you need and a few tips and tricks for better sleep.

Why You Need Sleep

You may have heard the saying, "there's nothing a good night's sleep can't fix".

As it turns out... It's kind of true!

Good sleep helps you flourish in a multitude of ways.

It's vital to brain functions like memory, productivity, and focus, helping you stay on top of your game at work or school. And, it's awesome for your physical health by supporting the immune system.

Though one all-nighter here and there may seem like no big deal, sleep deprivation really takes a toll on your body. You have less energy, and your cognitive functioning is impaired. This can lead to less productivity, more irritability, and more stress.

Learn the signs and symptoms of sleep deprivation.

How Much Sleep You Need: 5 Factors

1. Age

Most people you will ask will tell you age is the biggest determining factor for how much sleep you need. Generally, as you get older, you require less sleep to function.

The CDC  recommends at least 7 hours a day for most adults, but teens and children require even more.

2. Illness and Health Conditions

Because quality sleep boosts the immune system, allowing yourself some extra sleep helps the body fight infections.

On the flip side, if you experience chronic exhaustion or find yourself sleeping more than 9 hours on a regular basis, it may be a warning sign of something more serious.

Reach out to your doctor to make sure there aren't any unknown health conditions your body is fighting.

3. Activity Level

Exercise uses up a lot of energy. When you regularly burn off a lot of energy throughout the day, naturally, you may need more sleep to replenish that energy than someone who lives a more sedentary lifestyle.

A full night's rest can even help you perform better at physical activities.

4. Stress & Anxiety Levels

Stress and anxiety cause our bodies to prepare for whatever real or imaginary threat is weighing on us. The sympathetic nervous system gets revved up and releases a hormone called cortisol (AKA the reason you feel so on edge when you're anxious) into the bloodstream.

Spending all day long in survival mode can be... well, exhausting. During times of high stress and anxiety, your body may need more sleep than usual.

Learn more about what causes anxiety.

5. Energy Levels

After all is said and done, the easiest way to tell how much sleep you need is by listening to what your body tells you.

Feeling low-energy is a big sign that you need more sleep. For example, if you're getting 7 hours of sleep but feeling lethargic throughout the day, you may need 8 or 9 hours.

How to Get the Sleep You Need

Life is full of daily distractions that can weigh on your mind and eat up your time in the evenings. Luckily, we have a few helpful tricks to help you get your schedule back on track and help you get how much sleep you need.

1. Go Offline

Though it's tempting to end the day snuggled up with your phone and TV, it might really be wrecking your sleep quality.

Social media and the constant news cycle can trigger stress and anxiety that keep you awake. And, all those screens you're watching? They emit artificial blue light, which can trick your body into thinking it's daytime and confuse your circadian rhythms.

Logging off for an hour or so before bed can help you sleep better.

2. Set Boundaries

If school or work responsibilities are keeping you up late at night, it may be time to set some better boundaries and address bandwidth issues.

This could look like delegating tasks to other team members, pushing back deadlines, or making current processes more efficient.

3. Exercise

Sleep and exercise are closely-intertwined. Better sleep will give you energy to exercise, and regular exercise will help you fall asleep more easily.

A 2012 review of sleep studies found that exercise has consistently helped those with chronic insomnia fall asleep faster.

4. Relax Before Bedtime

If you are having trouble falling asleep, you may need to set aside more time to relax before bed.

You can try gentle yoga, reading a good book, or our favorite way to unwind: Journaling. Journaling helps get any of those pesky thoughts about what you have to do tomorrow or didn't finish today out of your head and onto the page, so that you can sleep with full peace of mind.

If you're new to journaling, a journaling app like Jour can help you establish a daily journaling habit. Jour comes with a ton of personalized prompts and daily reminders to keep you on track.

Check out some journaling ideas to help you relax before going to sleep.

So How Much Sleep Do You Need, Really?

When it comes to determining how much sleep you need, everyone's body is different.

Though there are general guidelines organized by age group, it's important to pay attention to other factors like your activity levels, stress levels, and energy levels.

If you realize you aren't getting the sleep you need, make an effort to eliminate nighttime distractions. Setting boundaries at work, reducing time on social media, and making time for relaxing activities like journaling can help you clear your head and sleep better.

And remember: Next time you're up late and can't fall asleep, the Jour app is here to provide a listening ear so you can sleep better.

See you in dreamland!