Sleep

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

Causes of Fatigue Slideshow Pictures

Quick GuideSleep Disorders Pictures Slideshow: A Visual Guide to Sleeping Disorders

Sleep Disorders Pictures Slideshow: A Visual Guide to Sleeping Disorders

How much sleep does a person need?

Individuals vary greatly in their need for sleep; there are no established criteria to determine exactly how much sleep a person needs. Eight hours or more may be necessary for some people, while others may consider this to be too much sleep.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests that most average adults need about 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Newborn babies, by contrast, sleep from 16 to 18 hours a day. Preschool-aged children typically sleep between 10 and 12 hours a day. Older, school-aged children and teens need at least 9 hours of sleep a night. Women in the first trimester of pregnancy have been observed to need a few more hours' sleep than is usual for them.

Does the amount of sleep we need change as we age?

Changes in the sleep cycle do occur with aging. Deep or slow wave sleep (Stage N3) sleep declines as we age, while light sleep (Stage N1) increases with age, so that older adults may spend less time in the more restorative stages of sleep and more time in lighter sleep. Older people are also more easily aroused from sleep. While some people believe that older adults need less sleep as they get older, there is no scientific evidence that older people need less sleep than younger adults.

What are signs and symptoms of sleep deprivation?

Feeling tired or drowsy at any time during the day is one symptom of not having enough sleep. Being able to fall asleep within 5 minutes of lying down in the evening also may be a sign a person may be suffering from sleep deprivation. People who suffer from sleep deprivation often experience so-called "microsleeps," which are short bursts of sleep in an otherwise awake person.

Sleep-deprived people perform poorly on tests such as driving simulators and tests of hand-eye coordination. Sleep deprivation can also magnify the effects of alcohol, meaning that a sleep-deprived person will be more susceptible to becoming impaired after alcohol consumption than a well-rested person. Caffeine and other stimulants cannot successfully overcome the drowsiness associated with sleep deprivation.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/17/2016
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