The National Sleep Foundation has officially released a new set of guidelines for recommended sleep times by age.1
To develop the guidelines, the NSF conducted extensive research, published in Sleep Health: The Journal of the National Sleep Foundation, and collaborated with an expert panel.
Together, the organization and consultants were able to devise new sleep recommendations for nine distinct age groups. The guidelines not only divide up sleep recommendations by age, but also into the categories recommended, may be appropriate and not recommended. The organization hopes that by developing this more comprehensive guide to sleeping, it will better inform Americans of healthy rest habits and be able to improve communications with health care providers.
In a press release, Dr. Charles A. Czeisler, chairman of the board of the NSF, stated:1
“This is the first time that any professional organization has developed age-specific recommended sleep durations based on a rigorous, systematic review of the world scientific literature relating sleep duration to health, performance and safety. The National Sleep Foundation is providing these scientifically grounded guidelines on the amount of sleep we need each night to improve the sleep health of the millions of individuals and parents who rely on us for this information.”
The importance of sleep
The NSF guidelines note that for adults 26 to 64 years old, the recommended amount of sleep is 7 to 9 hours, although anywhere in the range of 6 to 10 hours may be appropriate. This duration is slightly reduced in adults age 65 or older, who should get a recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep, though 5 to 9 hours may be appropriate. The Wall Street Hedge notes that research has proven a healthy sleep schedule offers a wide range of health benefits, including lowering one’s risk of heart disease and regulating weight.2
In general, sleep, along with diet and exercise, is a crucial part of living a healthy lifestyle. However, deciding how much sleep is needed has been somewhat challenging considering that it varies so much from person to person. The new “may be appropriate” guideline added by the NSF clearly acknowledges this complication.
In order to create the guidelines, the NSF conducted more than two years of research and “multiple rounds of consensus voting.”1 Besides conferring with sleep experts, the vote also included members of the American Neurological Association, American Psychiatric Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics, among many others.
Fatigue in the health care industry
Fatigue can be a common health problem for adults in the busy working world, especially in the health care industry. Nurses, medical administrative assistants and other health care workers are often subject to lengthy shifts and working at night, which can quickly result in fatigue.
However, a revised position statement regarding fatigue released by the American Nurses Association hints that the industry may be working to correct this widespread issue. Nursing fatigue in particular is a major risk both to nurses themselves and to the quality of patient care. The updated ANA statement addresses these concerns for both nurses and employers and recommends that nurses do not work shifts longer than 12 hours and work 60 hours or fewer within a seven-day period.3
All in all, sleep is an integral part of our day-to-day lives. Understanding your exact sleep needs and developing consistent rest habits that align with the NSF’s recommendations can greatly benefit long-term health.
1 “Expert Panel Recommends New Sleep Times,” National Sleep Foundation Press Release, Feb. 2, 2015. http://sleepfoundation.org/media-center/press-release/expert-panel-recommends-new-sleep-times
2 “National Sleep Foundation Releases New Sleep Guidelines,” by George Williams, Wall Street Hedge, Feb. 3, 2015. http://www.wallstreethedge.com/national-sleep-foundation-releases-new-sleep-guidelines/21990/
3 “Addressing Nurse Fatigue to Promote Safety and Health: Joint Responsibilities of Registered Nurses and Employers to Reduce Risks,” American Nurses Association, Sept. 10, 2014. http://nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/WorkplaceSafety/Healthy-Work-Environment/Work-Environment/NurseFatigue/Addressing-Nurse-Fatigue-ANA-Position-Statement.pdf