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How to know how much sleep you need for a restful night.

Think of the time-related guidelines you can recite by heart. Wait 30 minutes to go swimming after a meal. Arrive at the airport two hours before your flight. Visit your dentist every six months. Now ask yourself: “How many hours of sleep should I get?” If you’re not sure, you’re not alone. (The answer is not the same for everyone anyway.) Here’s how to know how much sleep you need.

Everyone has different sleep needs.

Sleep needs change over your life span. When you’re young and growing, it’s normal to spend half of the day, if not more, sleeping. As you get older, you require less sleep each night for proper health and wellness.

While age is the primary factor in determining how much sleep you need, it’s not the only one.

Feel well rested? That’s how much sleep you need.

Your ultimate goal is to find your Goldilocks sleep spot – that “just right” amount of quality, restful sleep that leaves you healthy, happy and ready to take on the world.

The first step in determining what that means for you is setting a bedtime that allows for the recommended number of sleep hours for your age bracket. (For adults under 60, we suggest starting with eight hours.) Stick to that routine for a week or two and be sure to practice good sleeping habits during that time. Then, track how you feel when you wake up and throughout the day.

Do you hit the snooze button and pull the covers over your head more than once every morning? Is it hard to focus and concentrate during the day? Do you constantly crave caffeine and junk food? Are you moody? Do you show physical signs of irritated eyes, acne or weight gain? All of these can be signs of sleep deprivation, meaning you’re not getting enough quality sleep.

Do you find yourself waking up before your alarm, raring to go? Do you feel refreshed with an energy level that lasts throughout the day? You may not need the full eight hours you’ve scheduled for sleep.

Adjust your sleep routine until you find the right sleep interval for you. It may also help to vary your bedtime. You may discover that hitting the sack at 10 p.m. instead of 11 p.m. and shifting your alarm to an hour earlier makes a big difference without adding additional shut-eye time.

Can you sleep too much?

All of us need an extra hour or two of rest on occasion. In the short term, oversleeping can have the same negative side effects as getting too little sleep. But if you regularly need more than nine to 10 hours of sleep to feel rested, you may be suffering from other health problems, like diabetes, depression or sleep apnea. To better understand why you are oversleeping, talk to your doctor to see if you need a professional sleep assessment.

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