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In today's busy world, it can be difficult to feel like you're getting enough sleep. But how much sleep do you really need, anyway? The usual advice you hear recommends eight hours, but new research suggests that that may be variable depending on your individual situation. If you've ever wondered how much you should be sleeping or wish you could get more sleep in the first place, read on to discover the latest information and research on healthy sleep habits.

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Age Isn't Just a Number

Age has a big impact on the amount of sleep an individual needs. Infants, children, and teens need significantly more sleep than most adults due to the requirements of their growing bodies. Infants, in particular, may need 14 to 17 hours of sleep a day, although by the time they're toddlers that drops to 11 to 14 hours. After age 6, children typically need nine to 11 hours, while teenagers need eight to ten hours a night.

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Adult Sleep Needs

Once you reach age 18, your sleep needs generally decrease. Like the childhood recommendations, though, it's generally a bit of a range. Most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night to feel rested and happy. Seniors age 65 and older often need slightly less sleep than that, with a standard range being seven to eight hours.

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What Affects Your Need for Sleep?

Some people do fine with just seven hours of sleep, while others need the full nine hours to feel rested. It is mostly due to your unique body and lifestyle. Things that may cause you to need more sleep include underlying health issues, obesity, poor sleep quality, and a more active lifestyle. To find which side of the range you fall on, simply experiment a bit with how much rest you get. Pay attention to how well-rested you feel in the morning when you wake up as well as throughout the day.

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Getting a Good Night's Rest

Many people want to get more sleep but are unable to do so. If you find yourself in that category, there are a few things you can try. One important one is to practice good sleep hygiene. Try to keep your bedroom a place designed purely for rest. Don't work in bed or otherwise distract yourself, which can cause your brain to subconsciously stop associating your bed with sleep. Make sure your bedroom is as comfortable as possible, too. Bed comfort, temperature, ambient light and noise can all help or interfere with your sleep.

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Stay Away From Screens

It's tempting to watch TV or play on your phone right before bed, but this should be avoided. The blue light emitted by computer screens, tablets, phones, and televisions mimics natural sunlight, which tricks your brain into thinking it's time to be awake. Some devices have a "night light" function that adds a yellow hue and diminishes the effect, but sleep experts still suggest putting the screens away at least half an hour before bed.

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Create a Bedtime Ritual

Getting a good night's rest can be as much a mental issue as it is a physical one, so creating a particular ritual before bed may help train your brain to fall asleep more quickly. Perhaps you enjoy a nice cup of chamomile tea while you read before you fall asleep, or you have a soothing skincare ritual. A few minutes of meditation can also help you fall asleep faster. Try to create a relaxing routine and stick to it every night.

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Pay Attention To Your Diet

The food and beverages you consume can have a major impact on your sleep. Stimulants like caffeine can have a lingering effect for hours, so try to avoid them in the late afternoon and early evenings. Alcohol may make you feel drowsy, but it also interferes with the quality of your sleep so you may feel less rested. Try not to drink more than one drink in an evening, and make sure that it is at least a few hours before bed. People with overall healthier diets tend to have better sleep patterns as well.

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Get Enough Exercise

It's hard to stay active in this sedentary culture, but it's an important part of healthy sleep habits. If your body isn't tired, you are likely to have more trouble sleeping. Make sure to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, although you may not want to do it right before bed. The endorphins released during exercise can have an invigorating effect that wakes you up.

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Stick To a Schedule

If you stay up late on weekends and then find yourself lying awake when you have to get up early the next day, you may be sabotaging your own sleep schedule. Most people thrive on routine, so having wildly varying bedtimes can disrupt your body's circadian rhythms and make it difficult to fall asleep when you have to go to bed early. Try not to vary your bedtime by more than an hour or so except on rare special occasions.

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Make Sleep a Priority

It's easy to neglect self-care like sleep when you have a lot to do, but simply making sure to put it near the top of your list of important activities can do a lot to improve your sleep schedule. It is critically important, after all, since a lack of sleep can cause confusion, depression and a general decline physical and mental abilities. It is also linked with medical conditions like high blood pressure. If you think you're not getting enough sleep and nothing seems to help, consult your doctor for more advice.

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