One sleeps 5 hours, the other 7 hours and others need, for example, 9 hours sleep to start the next day feeling rested. We all differ from each other and as a result we all have different ideal sleeping patterns. But how many hours do we really need?


One thing's for sure, we all need sleep. Like food, water and oxygen, sleep is one of man's basic needs. According to the renowned sleep researcher Allan Rechtschaffen, we can even go without food for longer than without sleep. Initially, he carried out tests on animals. These showed that they can stay awake for a maximum of 2 weeks.

The most important world record for people to stay awake was set in 1977 by 17-year-old Randy Gardner . Under the supervision of professional sleep researchers he stayed awake for a total of 11 days. After which he suffered from hallucinations, concentration problems and even a drop in body temperature. During this experiment, researchers gathered a lot of important information.

An average healthy adult person can, if he has access to water, go up to 8 weeks without eating.


Sleep is also a perfect indicator of our general health. When we sleep well, we live well and vice versa.

On average, we spend one third of our lives asleep. Most of us know that a good night's sleep is extremely important for our quality of life, yet we rarely make it a priority. Busy daily schedules often make us forget what it really feels like to be well rested. The use of artificial light, an alarm clock and energy drinks are some of the ways we break our natural sleep/wake cycle.

This sleep/wake cycle changes as we get older. The NSF (National Sleep Foundation) has published a study that serves as a guideline to determine how much sleep we need at each age. The study shows a minimum and maximum number of hours of sleep per age category that is recommended.


  • 0 to 3 months: 14 to 17 hours
  • 4 to 11 months: 12 to 15 hours
  • 1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours
  • 3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours
  • 6 to 13 years: 9 to 11 hours
  • 14 to 17 years: 8 to 10 hours
  • 18 to 25 years: 7 to 9 hours
  • 26 to 64 years: 7 to 9 hours
  • 65 and over: 7 to 8 hours

This is not yet an exact science, more research will have to be done. "The more research we will do on sleep duration, the better we will be able to give advice," says Dr. Max Hirshkowitz of NSF.


To determine how much sleep we actually need, it is not enough to just situate ourselves on this scale. We need to consider all the elements that may affect our sleep pattern. For example, health, heavy labour, stress and physical activity have a major influence on our need for sleep.

In order to start a healthier sleep habit, it is important to first of all map out your current individual needs and habits. "If you are satisfied with your current number of hours of sleep, continue so. But if that's not the case and you're not rested, that can be a warning," says Dr. Hirshkowitz. "If you're not sure, try the center of your age group and follow it up from there," Dr. Hirshkowitz says. Then continue with small adjustments and see how your body reacts to them. Energy and mood are important indicators here.


NSF then gives you 7 tips that can help you find your ideal sleeping pattern.

  • Stick to your sleeping pattern, even on weekends
  • Relax in the evening with a daily ritual
  • Make sure your room has the ideal temperature, avoid noise and light as much as possible.
  • Pay due attention to your mattress, pillow and down comforter
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine as much as possible before bedtime
  • Turn off electronic equipment
  • Do enough physical activity during the day

Keeping a sleep diary in which you write down, among other things, what time you went to sleep and got up and how the day and night went, can help you determine the best length of sleep for yourself after a while. If you keep a good record of this, it is possible to compare your old sleeping pattern with the new one. 

How much sleep do you need?

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