Complete Guide to Healthy Sleep at Home for the Whole Family
American adults are only getting six hours of sleep on average, and 75 percent of them are also having difficulties falling asleep a couple of nights a week. The recommended amount of nightly sleep is between seven to nine hours. Read our guide to healthy sleep below for tips on how to sleep better, including how to establish a sleep schedule and avoiding caffeinated drinks.
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UPDATED: Nov 5, 2020
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Sleep is an essential component of overall health. Although some aspects of it are still a mystery to scientists, the function of sleep for our health and the ability to maintain memories is widely known. Unfortunately, not everyone gets enough of it for a variety of reasons.
American adults are only getting six hours of sleep on average, and three-quarters of them are also experiencing difficulties in sleeping a couple of nights a week. For comparison, the recommended amount of nightly sleep is at least around seven to nine hours.
With the vital role sleep plays in our health, regardless of age, ensuring that every member of the family gets their recommended share of quality shut-eye is essential.
Sleep Needs and Resources Based on Age
Newborns and Infants (birth to twelve months)
Babies spend most of their day sleeping. It is not unusual for newborns to sleep up to nine hours during the day and another eight during the nighttime. However, they do not tend to sleep long and usually wake up every one or two hours. Babies do not usually begin to sleep through a full eight hours until they are approximately three months old.
- Stanford Children’s Health: Infant sleep
- Nationwide Children’s Hospital: Sleep in infants (2-12 months)
Toddlers (one to five years)
Toddlers may be hyper, but they usually spend half the day sleeping (the recommended sleep hours are twelve to fourteen hours a day for kids ages one to three). They do not tend to put in these hours in just one go, as most toddlers will nap once or twice a day. Meanwhile, older kids in the age range need around eleven to thirteen hours of sleep.
- Kids Health: All about sleep
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Sleep tips for your family’s mental health
Kids (age ten and younger)
Children in this age group usually sleep around nine and a half hours a night. However, experts recommend a bit more, or around ten to eleven hours so that they can be in their best condition during the day, especially at school.
- Sleep for Kids: The sleep of America’s children
- National Jewish Health: 10 tips that help kids prepare for a good night’s sleep
Teens (age 13 to 19)
Teenagers need about nine to nine and a half hours of sleep each night. However, a great number of teens today only get about seven hours. This lack of sleep is usually caused by their busy school schedules or social lives.
Young Adults (early 20s)
This age group is another notorious one for not getting their recommended hours of sleep. Being in college or stressing over their first job can result in young adults failing to get at least seven and a half hours of sleep each night.
- American Academy of Sleep Medicine: College students: Getting enough sleep is vital for academic success
- University of South Florida: The importance of sleep for college students
- Palo Alto Medical Foundation: Sleep needs
It is usually at this stage in life when sleeping problems experienced at a younger age become more prominent or worsen. In the United States, three out of ten adults report only getting six or less hours of sleep, as opposed to the recommended seven to nine hours needed to be ready for the day.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Tips for better sleep
- American Thoracic Society: Healthy sleep in adults
Seniors (65 and over)
A person’s sleep patterns often change as they age. Older adults may feel more tired earlier in the night, wake up in the middle of the night, and find it impossible to go to sleep and wake up earlier in the mornings. These changes, when left unchecked, may lead to the development of sleep disorders like insomnia. It is important to stay within the seven to eight hours of recommended sleep.
- Family Doctor: Sleep changes in older adults
- Medline Plus: Aging changes in sleep
- University of California San Francisco: Sleep
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Common Sleep Problems
Sleep problems can manifest in the form of sleep disorders which affects the amount and quality if rest that a person can get. Here are several common ones and their most recognizable symptoms:
Hypersomnia: Also called idiopathic hypersomnia sleep (IHS), hypersomnia is a condition characterized by sleepiness during the day despite a night of full sleep. The condition is also accompanied by sleep inertia and sleep drunkenness. The disorder is usually observed in older teens but can also be experienced by adults.
Insomnia: On the other end of the spectrum is insomnia. This disorder, which is estimated to affect around ten percent of the population, is characterized by the inability to fall asleep as well as wakefulness at night.
Parasomnia: This disorder involves a wider range of unusual ‘sleep events.’ If you experience sleepwalking, seizures, or nightmares which have affected your daily life, you may be suffering from this disorder.
Sleep Apnea: More common among men, overweight people, and those with high blood pressure; sleep apnea causes the halting of breathing (usually around ten seconds to a minute) that happens while sleeping. The disorder has serious consequences and has also been linked to other illnesses and conditions such as depression, high blood pressure, and a higher chance of developing diabetes. Because of this, it requires treatment.
- American Psychiatric Association: What are sleep disorders?
- Harvard University: An overview of sleep disorders
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: Sleep deprivation and deficiency
Tips for Improving Sleep
If you recognize some of the symptoms mentioned above in your sleep pattern (or a family member’s), you may want to pay more attention to your sleep hygiene. This includes habits and behaviors that you can use to improve the quality and length of your sleep. These may include making changes in your schedule, environment, or diet.
Here are some ways you can clean up your own sleep hygiene and help other family members get better sleep:
- Establish a regular sleep schedule
- Avoid napping during the day
- Do not watch television or surf the web in bed
- Be mindful of your consumption of caffeinated drinks
- Exercise regularly
- Make the bedroom a relaxing and comfortable place to sleep
- National Institute on Aging: A good night’s sleep
- University of Washington: Sleep hygiene tips
- Wright State University: You really need to sleep: Several methods to improve your sleep