Sleep is defined as the time when the body rests, and the brain is not doing any active concentrating activity. With the changes in lifestyle during the 21st century, the quality and quantity of sleep have been deteriorating. There are hardly any individuals who have a normal sleep-wake rhythm, be it children, adolescents or middle-age people, as opposed to the traditional scarcity of sleep seen in the elderly.
How Much Sleep is Recommended for Each Age Group?
The National Sleep Foundation’s recommendations for nightly sleep are broken down into nine age groups.
|Age Range||Recommended Hours of Sleep|
|Newborn||0-3 months old||14-17 hours|
|Infant||4-11 months old||12-15 hours|
|Toddler||1-2 years old||11-14 hours|
|Preschool||3-5 years old||10-13 hours|
|School-age||6-13 years old||9-11 hours|
|Teen||14-17 years old||8-10 hours|
|Young Adult||18-25 years old||7-9 hours|
|Adult||26-64 years old||7-9 hours|
|Older Adult||65 or more years old||7-8 hours|
Sleeping pattern in Babies
Usually, newborn babies sleep for over 18-20 hours a day. But their sleep usually lasts for 2-3 hours after which they wake up and require feeding. It is a misconception that the babies sleep during the day and are awake at night. If they are feeding at least twice at night, they won't trouble the mother.
Sleeping pattren in School going kids
It has been proven scientifically that a good sleep of at least nine to twelve hours in children facilitates IQ development, by improving the power of the brain, promotes the development of many spinal reflexes that are needed in day to day life, and improves their growth potential.
As the child grows, a 24-hour sleep-wake cycle develops in the body. This is mainly associated with the division of the day into two parts – one from sunrise to sunset, which is active time and the other from sunset to sunrise, which is the rest time. This circadian rhythm also influences other functions of the body – mainly the hormones, temperature, cardiac output, respiratory functions, immunity and even the digestive juices.
This has a great impact on the ability of the brain to perform various functions like memory, analytical and logical thinking, the physical ability of the body in the form of better heart rate and blood pressure in the morning, behaviour mood and most importantly puberty.
Although, it is seen that young adults have a circadian rhythm as they tend to sleep late and rise up at almost the same time.
It has been seen that altered circadian rhythm leads to insomnia (inability to go to sleep), decreases alertness and impairs performance.
Sleep in Adolescents
Adolescence is a very crucial period. During this time, there is a lot of development in the body, physically, sexually, reproductively and mentally.
A good 8-9 hours of sleep at night would be very helpful. It is during sleep that the pituitary gland secretes a few hormones like LH and FSH in the brain. These hormones are responsible for normal reproductive organs development. If there is a lack of night sleep, these hormones go haywire, which can be responsible for increasing infertility during adult life.
Apart from reproductive development, a lot of brain and memory development occurs. It is seen that 'N3' stage of sleep is maximum during this time if a teenager takes full 8 hours sleep which leads to improved circuitry of the hippocampus and improves long term memory. So, it is advisable that students who aim at clearing some competitive exam should sleep for at least eight hours at night and wake up early in the morning. Besides reproductive and higher mental function, proper sleep also has a role in the physical development of the body. During sleep, there is a pulsatile release of growth hormone and thyroid-stimulating hormone that are responsible for proper calcium deposition in bone and muscle mass development.
Young Adults and Sleeping Pattern
Young adults are much more prone to abnormalities related to the sleep cycle, especially in abrupt city life. Firstly, there has been increasing competition that has to lead to a lot of comparative assessment and stressful workplace and educational environment. This is responsible for irrational mental pressure making them vulnerable to take sleeping pills.
Well, 6-8 hours of sleep per night is considered sufficient during this time. Perhaps, a 15-20 minutes power nap during mid-day would be useful, not only in reducing tension but also in improving efficiency. Nevertheless, taking up counselling and yoga sessions would be a much better alternative than popping pills with addictive potential.
The Bliss of Middle Age
By the time one reaches 35-40 years of age, a night of peaceful sleep is no longer a bigger issue. In fact, many might sustain well with good night sleep of 6-7 hours every night. Furthermore, a nice sleep during this time holds importance in preventing diseases like hypertension, hypocholesteraemia and metabolic syndrome.
Many studies have shown that an interrupted night sleep during this age increases blood pressure as well as creates insulin resistance. So, the main aim should be on working out for at least one hour every day that makes you tired enough (also keeps weight in control) to prevent early initiation of deadly disorders.
Sleep during Old-Age
Usually, during old age, most of the brain functions get suppressed, and it is easy to fall asleep, making daily sleep routine of 9-10 hours per day. Unfortunately, the current lifestyle is even hampering the sleep of the elderly. It has been observed that the elderly are left alone or even abused and maltreated, more so in the megacities, making them vulnerable to depression and insomnia. Thus they might have to take sleeping pills which have horrible side effects on their ageing body.
Role of Sleep in Weight Loss
Now it is proven that a peaceful sleep of more than 7 hours every night helps to maintain weight. In fact, people taking less sleep (less than 6 hours) are more prone to weight gain.
Sleep in Mental Functions
Our sleep has two crucial phases which are more prominent when a person has proper 7-8 hours of sleep. One must remember that a good sleep comprises of 5-6 small cycles of 1.5 hours each, each cycle having a REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement) phase. If one is woken up during the REM phase, the dreams are remembered and often the individual faces problems like bad mood and irritability. So, while setting up the alarm, try to complete minimum five cycles of 1.5 hours that will help you in having a fresh happy morning.
Besides, the REM phase of sleep is seen more during the late hours, i.e. after more than half an hour of the 8 hours sleep is complete. It is this REM sleep that helps in improving concentration, building long term memory and mathematical efficiency. So, instead of taking truncated naps of 2-3 hours, haphazardly prefer taking a long sleep.
Sleep during pregnancy
During pregnancy, a proper amount of rest is extremely crucial for the health of the baby. It has been shown that while the expecting mother is sleeping, the blood flow to the baby via the placenta upswings providing more nutrition for the proper growth. So, a pregnant lady must sleep for at least eight hours at night and a couple of hours after lunch.
Sleep is an inherent right of your brain and body. In the race of achieving success, do not compromise this, rather a good sleep pattern goes a long way. Also, sleep hygiene has a role to play. One should not use the screen for 30-60 minutes before going to sleep, keep the lights dim, use bed for just sleep and sexual activity and in fact, can even eat a banana or drink some curd before sleep because these food items are rich in tryptophan which improves quality and quantity of sleep.
Have a good sleep pattern. Sweet Dreams!
Co-author: Paridhi Singhal
Paridhi is a budding doctor. Apart from studying medicine, she is a keen writer who believes in the thought that pen is mightier than the sword.