Sleep Requirements for Adults and Children

Sleep Requirements for Adults and Children

Many of us have seen charts stating how much sleep a person needs at any particular age. The fact is that even the experts don’t know for sure how much sleep an individual needs. The charts are helpful as a starting point, but you really need to fine-tune the estimates to fit your individual circumstances.  As you do so, keep the following points in mind:

  1. There is no optimal number of sleep hours that applies to all adults or all children .
  2. The most recent scientific study of sleep duration among children reveals tremendous amount of variation between individuals – especially during early childhood.
  3. Sleep patterns vary internationally.
  4. In the West, average sleep times – and perceptions of sleep requirements – have changed from generation to generation.
  5. Too little sleep can harm adults and children.  Scientific studies link childhood sleep loss with fatigue and bad moods.


   6. Sleeping less than average isn’t necessarily bad.


   7. Although some parents underestimate how much sleep their children need, others overestimate.

The above information was taken from an article by Gwen Dewar called Sleep requirements: A guide for the science-minded parent (2008) published in the online publication Parenting Science.  Find the complete article at  The article will give you more specifics on how to assess your family’s individual sleep requirements.  There are tips for keeping a sleep diary if you want to analyze your sleep patterns.  But, since “children are notoriously bad judges of their own sleepiness” here are some signs of sleep deprivation in children.

    * Harder to awaken in the morning
    * Show greater difficulty concentrating
    * Fall asleep spontaneously during the day (inadvertent napping)
    * “Sleep in” on weekends (which suggests they are making up for sleep lost during the week)
    * Hyperactivity
    * Defiant or moody behavior

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