Sleep is an essential organic function to maintain adequate health, and like all physiological activity it can present a number of alterations.
Today there is greater awareness of the great impact that healthy or unhealthy sleep has on people's lives, because lack of sleep is associated with damage to motivation, emotion and normal functioning of an individual in society (work or school performance, interpersonal relationships, road safety; and with a higher risk of serious diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer among others.
The hygiene of sleep is a set of behaviors and environmental recommendations to promote healthy sleep, developed for use in the treatment of moderate to mild insomnia, and avoiding anything that interferes with sleep.
Based on this definition, sleep hygiene is based on controlling factors such as how many hours to sleep, even all those qualitative issues that help to achieve a better rest, such as the importance of schedules, the environment, food and sport. Each individual component of sleep hygiene is related to better sleep.
Sleep needs according to age
How many hours to sleep at each stage of life remains somewhat controversial. Sleep needs vary in relation to age, but also in relation to various interindividual and genetic factors.
For this reason, the National Sleep Foundation published an article where it recommends the number of hours to sleep according to age. They established an ideal interval of how many hours to sleep, specifying the minimum number of hours of sleep and the number of hours that we should not exceed in each age group.
They were based on some of the aspects mentioned in the introductory paragraph such as: physical, emotional and cognitive well-being and health; which were fundamental to establish the ranges of daily sleep duration:
Newborns (0-3 months)
A daily sleep duration of 14-17 hours is recommended. In the case of newborns only a few days old, a sleep period of more than 18 hours is not recommended, as this could alter their cognitive or emotional development by limiting their interaction with their closest environment.
Infants (4-11 months)
A daily sleep duration of 12-15 hours is recommended. Long durations of sleep could limit the baby's environmental interaction and would have the same repercussions as in newborns.
Young children (1-2 years)
Research studies have shown the association between short sleep, obesity, hyperactivity, impulsivity, and low cognitive development. A daily sleep duration of 11-14 hours is recommended.
Prolonged duration of sleep may interfere with young children's exploration of their physical and social environment, thereby impeding motor, cognitive, and social development.
Preschoolers (3-5 years)
A daily sleep duration of 10-13 hours is recommended. There are associations between long naps, cognitive disturbances, the onset of late night sleep, and a shorter duration of nighttime sleep.
Evidence showing that preschoolers who slept less than 9 hours a night are more likely to be obese than those who sleep 10 or more.
Schoolchildren (6-13 years)
In this stage, a daily sleep duration of 9-11 hours is adequate. Research studies have shown the association of short sleep with low sleep with the factors mentioned in previous cases, in addition to lower academic performance in this age group.
Adolescents (14-17 years)
The appropriate sleep period for teens is 8-10 hours. A short sleep at this age can cause a decrease in alertness, traffic accidents, depression or dysthymia, obesity and poor school performance.
The development of strategies aimed at delaying the start of classes has shown a notable increase in total nighttime sleep in this age group.
Young adults (18-25 years) and middle-aged adults (26-64 years)
The appropriate number of hours in young and middle-aged adults is 7-9 hours. A short-duration sleep could generate the presence of daytime fatigue, psychomotor impairment, accidents, deterioration of physical and psychological health and poor academic or work performance.
Elderly (≥ 65 years)
A daily sleep duration of 7-8 hours is recommended. Sleep needs in the elderly differ little from those of the adult. The elderly who sleep the necessary hours have better cognitive functioning, fewer physical and mental illnesses and a better quality of life in general.
Contrary to what one might think, a sleep lasting more than nine hours in the elderly is associated with higher morbidity (hypertension, diabetes, atrial fibrillation) and higher mortality.
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