How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?
We tend to think of sleep as a time when the mind and body shut down. But this is not the case; sleep is an active period in which a lot of important processing, restoration, and strengthening occurs. When it comes to sleep, can you have too much of a good thing? It's true a good night's sleep is essential for health. But oversleeping has been linked to a host of medical problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and increased risk of death.
Healthy sleep is critical for everyone, since we all need to retain information and learn skills to thrive in life. But this is likely part of the reason children—who acquire language, social, and motor skills at a breathtaking pace throughout their development—need more sleep than adults. While adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night, one-year-olds need roughly 11 to 14 hours, school age children between 9 and 11, and teenagers between 8 and 10. During these critical periods of growth and learning, younger people need a heavy dose of slumber for optimal development and alertness.
Unfortunately, a person can't just accumulate sleep deprivation and then log many hours of sleep to make up for it (although paying back "sleep debt" is always a good idea if you're sleep deprived). The best sleep habits are consistent, healthy routines that allow all of us, regardless of our age, to meet our sleep needs every night, and keep on top of life's challenges every day.
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