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New recommendation: Adults need at least 7 hours of sleep each night

How much sleep is enough, and is it possible to sleep too much? Until recently, there wasn't much consensus on sleep guidelines for adults. Now, a new set of recommendations agreed upon by a team of sleep experts helps put these questions to rest: Adults need a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night, preferably more.

These new recommendations, published yesterday in the journal SLEEP (subscription required), were developed by 15 sleep experts in a consensus panel assembled by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society. One of the panelists was Clete Kushida, MD, PhD, medical director of the Stanford Sleep Medicine Center, and I reached out to him to learn more about their work.

The goal of the panel was to take stock of existing studies on sleep and use the information to come to a consensus on a recommended sleep amount, he told me. To do so, "the panel reviewed and evaluated 5,314 scientific articles on sleep over a 12-month period."

After examining the literature, the panel concluded that "sleeping six or fewer hours per night is inadequate to sustain health and safety in adults, and [they] agreed that seven or more hours of sleep per night is recommended for all healthy adults."

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the recommendations is that they don't place an upper limit on the amount of sleep. Nine hours is often cited as the maximum amount of time an adult should sleep, yet these new guidelines state that it's okay for adults to sleep more if needed.

I asked Kushida why the new recommendations do away with the nine-hour sleep limit. Simply put, he said: "Sleeping more than nine hours per night on a regular basis may be appropriate for young adults, individuals recovering from sleep debt, and individuals with illnesses."

The take-home message is that adults can be healthy on seven hours of sleep each night, but this amount of rest is not ideal. It's better for adults to sleep more if possible, especially when they're young, sleep deprived or ill.

Previously: Exploring the history and study of sleep with Stanford’s William DementStanford docs discuss all things sleepBBC study: Oh, what a difference an hour of sleep makes, Study shows seniors sleep better than younger adultsExploring the effect of sleep loss on health and What are the consequences of sleep deprivation?
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