How much sleep do you need to be healthy?

It’s funny how time changes your concept of things. Bedtime used to be the worst time of day when we were children and we’d do everything in our limited power to persuade our parents to let us stay up later.

Now, after a long day at work, college or running errands we actually look forward to the time of day when we can swap shoes for slippers, work attire for comfy PJs and sink into bed. An early night is no longer something to be sniffed at – it’s something to be jealous of!

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Unfortunately, much as we’d all love an early night once or twice a week to catch up on our sleep, it’s not always possible. Whether down to busy work schedules, a hectic home life or a chock-a-block social calendar, something always seems to get in the way of a long and refreshing night’s sleep.

But just how many hours of sleep do we need?


The first thing to note is how important sleep is to your body and wellbeing. Sleep is essential in order for our brains to function on a day-to-day basis. With neurones in the brain replenished with sugars to restore energy as we sleep, which ensures it’s easier to concentrate.

Insufficient sleep could lead to forgetfulness, irritability and clumsiness.

As we get some much needed shut-eye, growth hormones are secreted to help muscles heal and to replenish general wear and tear. It also boosts the immune system and plays an important role in brain development – which is why sleep is particularly important for children.


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As a general rule, children need more sleep than adults. Between the ages of five and 11 years, children need between 10 and 12 hours of sleep a night.

Sufficient sleep is also crucial for teenagers as hormones, essential for growth spurts, are released when adolescents sleep. Children aged 11-18 need 8.5 to 10 hours a night.


We’ve all heard of the ‘8 hours a night’ rule but everyone is different so this shouldn’t necessarily be taken to heart. However, research carried out by the BBC at the University of Surrey’s Sleep Research Centre suggested that anything less than 7.5 hours a night could have adverse effects in the short and long term.

Genes associated with inflammation and response to stress became more active among a group of volunteers who reduced their sleep hours from 7.5 to 6.5 per night. Increases in the activity of genes associated with diabetes and the risk of cancer were also witnessed – and the reverse happened when the volunteers added an hour of sleep to their nightly schedule.

Sleep is a healing process which is crucial for a healthy body and mind, so if you don’t get enough sleep then it may be worth changing your sleeping habits!

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