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Do I Really Need Eight Hours of Sleep?

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Do I Really Need Eight Hours of Sleep?

Mar 05, 2015
Some people say they’re fine with less sleep – some people are sure that they can’t function on less than eight hours. Dr. Kyle Bradford Jones talks about what’s best for people of different ages. From young children to elderly adults, he talks about how to maximize your rest time and provides some recommendations for how you and your family can get a better night’s sleep.

Episode Transcript

Interviewer: The general perception is that we all need eight hours of sleep. True or false? That's coming up next on The Scope.

Announcer: Medical news and research from University of Utah physicians and specialist you can use for a happier and healthier life. You're listening to The Scope.

Interviewer: We're talking today with Kyle Bradford Jones family physician at the University Utah. How important exactly is sleep?

Dr. Jones: Boy, sleep is huge. You know, if you get too much, too little, it severely impacts your health for the negative. It's been a big debate for years. How much sleep do we need? Currently the average American gets a little bit less than 7 hours. And so the question is, is that enough? Is that too much? Is that too little? So the National Sleep Foundation got together a bunch of sleep experts. They reviewed all of the scientific literature on sleep and came up with some recommendations for certain age groups.

Interviewer: And what are those guidelines?

Dr. Jones: So first of all for adults 18 and over. They give the range of seven to nine hours. So I mean that kind of fits the perception that we've had of roughly eight hours. But the nice thing is they give a little bit more of a range, because sometimes we need more sometimes we need a little less.

Interviewer: Right so there's that seven to nine buffer zone.

Dr. Jones: Exactly.

Interviewer: How about elderly people?

Dr. Jones: It's a similar amount. However with the elderly they tend to sleep a little bit less at night and nap a little bit more during the day. And that's okay. That's more of a natural rhythm for them. And so that's healthy for them.

Interviewer: So my grandma, bless her heart, always comes up with these crazy myths in the world. She always told me that the older you get, the less you need. I guess her way of saying that you can't sleep as much as you used to. That seems to be the case with this review.

Dr. Jones: Absolutely. As you get more into those elderly years like we said, it's a little bit less at night and then a little more napping during the day.

Interviewer: My grandma is not that crazy then.

Dr. Jones: Not on this aspect anyway.

Interviewer: And what about school age children? How much sleep do they need?

Dr. Jones: So this has been a big topic for years as well. How much do they need? We're talking about nine to 11 hours a night. Many kids don't get that. But it really impacts how they do in school. If they get that amount of sleep, they're going to do better, they're going to behave better and they're going to learn it better.

Interviewer: Does bedtime and waking up time have a difference or does that matter?

Dr. Jones: As long as it's consistent and you're getting the adequate amount, that's the most important thing.

Interviewer: Does school age children also include teenagers?

Dr. Jones: No. So for teenagers it's slightly different. We're looking at 8 to 10 hours. Parents of teenagers know that they like to sleep in. They like to do those things. Getting 8 to 10 hours is important because they are growing their bodies are changing, they need that rest in order to optimize their physical health.

Interviewer: What if you are a mother caring for a newborn, let's say?

Dr. Jones: So with a newborn its 14 to 17 hours a day.

Interviewer: More than half the day.

Dr. Jones: Exactly. They are growing so rapidly. Their brain is developing so rapidly. They really need that much rest in order for their body to grow.

Interviewer: So I'm not a mother yet, so I don't really know the answer to this, but is that in one nap or is it separated?

Dr. Jones: It's separated. So getting as much sleep during the night as you can which is easier said than done as any parent knows. But also includes a few naps during the day and letting them get their rest as much as they can really.

Interviewer: Does that also apply to adults as well, like little naps in the afternoons or something like that when we're free. Does that add up to the seven to nine buffer zone?

Dr. Jones: Actually for adults naps can be detrimental because it actually can worsen your sleep during the night. So ideally you want the seven to nine hours all in one chunk overnight.

Interviewer: Any final thoughts?

Dr. Jones: Just try to individualize this to yourself. So some people do better with seven some might do better with nine. You know you want to try to get within that range as much as possible to optimize your health. But the most important thing is making sure you get enough rest.

Announcer: We're your daily dose of science, conversation, medicine. This is The Scope. University of Utah Health Sciences Radio.