How much sleep do I need for my age?

Three different ages of people asleep – child, adult, senior
(Image credit: Getty)

Getting enough high-quality sleep on a consistent basis is essential to support countless aspects of well-being. Not only will a good night’s rest help you feel more alert and energized throughout the day, but also – among other things – promote better physical and mental health and an improved quality of life overall. Moreover, the importance of sleep can’t be underestimated in babies, children, and teenagers, as adequate sleep is crucial to support healthy development and growth.

These points considered, how many hours of sleep do you actually need at each stage of life to promote good health and feel your best throughout each day? "When it comes to sleep, every age group has different needs," says Syed E. Ahmed, MD, a board-certified physician specializing in mental health at Cleveland Psychiatry Associates. "Understanding how much sleep is required at different stages in life can help ensure that individuals are getting the rest they need for optimal physical and mental health."

Keep reading to see how much sleep you need based on your age, according to physicians and sleep researchers. Plus: how to tell if the amount of sleep you get each night is truly working for you and your family members.

If you're struggling to clock in enough hours because you can't drop off at night, implementing the 10-3-2-1-0 sleep rule might help. Or if you think your bed is to blame, head to our best mattress guide to upgrade.

How much sleep does a baby need?

"Infants between the ages of four months and 12 months should sleep for 12 to 16 hours per 24 hours, including naps," Dr Ahmed shares. "This is because during this period, babies are rapidly developing both physically and neurologically, which requires a lot of energy and rest." 

By the time a baby reaches the age of one or two, he says they should clock in 11 to 14 hours per day. (Both of these recommendations, as well as Dr. Ahmed’s successive suggestions for children and teenagers, align with those from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.)

However, Nilong Vyas, MD, board-certified pediatrician, sleep coach, and founder of family sleep consulting service Sleepless in NOLA, says that daily number might even be a bit higher. "A baby needs up to 17 hours of sleep per day," she shares. "The amount of sleep a person needs varies month to month in infancy and year to year as we age."

Simply put, a newborn is likely to require more sleep than they would when they’re a year or two older. Moreover, sleep needs will change rather frequently throughout this stage of life.

How much sleep does a child need?

"For children between the ages of three and five, the recommended amount of sleep is 10 to 13 hours per day. For children between the ages of six and 12, the recommended amount of sleep is nine to 12 hours per day," Dr Ahmed explains. "This is because as children grow and develop, they require less sleep overall but still need a significant amount to support healthy development."

Child asleep

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How much sleep does a teenager need?

  • Teenagers (ages 13-18) need around 8-10 hours of sleep a night

"Teenagers between the ages of 13 and 18 should sleep for eight to 10 hours per day," Dr Ahmed continues. "During this period, the body is going through significant hormonal changes and the brain is developing rapidly, which requires a lot of energy and rest."

Studies show that total sleep time drops significantly in adolescents, which can contribute to insomnia and sleep debt with age – not to mention heighten the risk of obesity, accidents, and more. Parents should take care to emphasize healthy sleep patterns even as their kids grow older and more autonomous.

What's going on inside a teenager's body? 

Teens face distractions in the form of tablets and TVs, busy daily routines, and less adult supervision than they would have had as children. However, it's not just outside distractions that teens have to deal with. 

When a person reaches their teenage years, their body clock actually sifts back, with their bodies producing sleep hormone melatonin later in the day, compared to young children and adults. 

"This is why teenagers can be perceived as 'lazy' when they sleep in until noon," explains Dr Lindsay, a chartered psychologist, neuroscientist, and sleep expert at And So To Bed. "In teenagers, their circadian rhythm actually changes to make them want to go to bed much later (which is why they may want to stay up until say 1 or 2am) and then, they may sleep in until 10/11am to get enough sleep."

The issue is that, whatever their bodies might want to do, teens are still required to get up and go to school before 9am. That means they can't extend their wakeup time to get their full 8-10 hours, leading to sleep deprivation during the week. "Further, if teens are allowed to catch up on sleep and have a long lie-in at the weekend then their circadian rhythm will struggle to shift earlier to help them fall asleep and wake up in a reasonable time for school on a Monday morning," continues Dr Lindsay. "It is like jet-lag. If they sleep in at the weekend then their circadian rhythm will stay in the later time zone for the school week."

How much sleep does an adult under 60 need?

"Adults between the ages of 18 and 60 should sleep for seven to nine hours per day," Dr Ahmed shares. "This is because adults need a sufficient amount of sleep for optimal physical and mental health – including maintaining a healthy immune system, regulating emotions, and supporting cognitive function."

While clocking in nine hours of rest isn’t a bad idea for adults – especially if it helps them feel and function their best on a day-to-day basis, compared to resting less than that – Dr Vyas says that the perfect amount of shut-eye might even be less. "An adult can feel rested after seven to eight hours of overnight sleep," she shares.

Young man asleep

(Image credit: Getty)

Curious as to why the recommended hours of sleep keep getting progressively smaller in number with each age group? "The need for sleep decreases as growth decelerates as we get older," Dr Vyas explains.

However, it’s worth noting that how much sleep you need often varies based on additional factors, so these recommendations should be read as general guidelines versus set-in-stone suggestions. This is particularly pertinent by the time you reach adulthood (though it’s certainly not limited to this demographic), and any number of extenuating circumstances can impact how many hours of sleep works best for you. "Factors such as medical conditions, sleep disorders, medications, and lifestyle can affect the amount of sleep a person needs," says Dr Ahmed.

How much sleep does an adult over 60 need?

"Adults over the age of 60 may need slightly less sleep – around seven to eight hours per day," Dr Ahmed continues. "However, individual needs can vary and some elderly [people] may require more sleep than others."

In light of her earlier note on typically requiring less sleep the older you get, Dr Vyas says that some people in this demographic can get by on even fewer hours of sleep. "An elderly person can be good with only six to seven hours of sleep," she shares.

Older man asleep

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How do I know if I’m getting the right amount of sleep for me?

Generally speaking, if you follow these sleeping recommendations by age group, you’ll be in a good place to set yourself up for success. Yet again, individual needs will vary, so Dr Vyas advises being in tune with your body to determine if you may need more (or even less) sleep.

"These ranges are determined after a significant amount of research, but the best guide to knowing what is ideal is how one feels after waking from sleep," she explains. "If an adult feels rested after sleeping for only 6.5 hours, and without a desire to run to caffeinate, then that may be okay for them."

With that said, research shows that clocking in under seven hours of sleep each night is associated with adverse health outcomes in adults. Per a 2015 review in the journal Sleep, sleeping less than seven hours per night is linked to "weight gain and obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and stroke, depression, and increased risk of death," as well as "impaired immune function, increased pain, impaired performance, increased errors, and greater risk of accidents." 

While these side effects aren't necessarily inevitable, they’re worth knowing particularly if you’re already lacking sleep and/or at risk for any of these conditions or scenarios.

Conversely, an adult may clock in up to nine hours of rest and still feel fatigued. If this sounds familiar – or if you struggle with sleep conditions whether chronic or recently onset – consult your physician. They can help you determine what your ideal sleep needs (and potential treatments) are with greater personalization and accuracy.

Woman asleep in bed, lying on her back

(Image credit: Getty)

How can I tell if my baby or child is getting enough sleep?

While the tip to tune into your body, energy levels, and overall sense of wellbeing may be easy to follow for teenagers, adults, and the elderly, you’ll need to take a different approach when it comes to babies and children.

"[They] can't necessarily communicate in those terms, [so] it is best to follow their cues," Dr Vyas advises. She helpfully shares a few telltale signs worth keeping tabs on. "A toddler or child giddy and 'wound up' at bedtime is most likely overtired and needs to get to bed earlier," she shares. Moreover, if your baby or child is cranky or fussy when it comes to sleep or struggles to perform regular daytime activities, their routine may need adjusting.

While Dr Vyas says that parents might have trouble getting their kids to bed earlier due to busy schedules, it’s essential that they remain diligent in observing their kids’ sleep routines – as well as their physical, mental, and emotional states – as a lack of sleep quantity and quality can be detrimental to their health and wellbeing. "Always err on the higher range of sleep for kids, especially if there is a noticeable change in their demeanor or behavior during the day," she concludes.

Lindsay Browning
Dr Lindsay Browning

Dr Lindsay Browning is a chartered psychologist, neuroscientist, and sleep expert at Trouble Sleeping. A member of the British Sleep Society and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, she has published several academic papers and an international self-help book: Navigating Sleeplessness.

Michele Ross

Michele Ross is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. For Tom's Guide and TechRadar, she interviews medical experts for sleep tips and tricks, as well as reviews mattresses and toppers to see which ones are truly worth buying for different types of sleepers and budgets. She has also covered a range of sleep topics for publications and brands including Well+Good, HUM Nutrition, and Mini Bloom, among others.