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Why do Different People Need Different Amounts of Sleep?

Updated on October 19, 2012
Different people need different amounts of sleep
Different people need different amounts of sleep | Source


Sleeping is something that is common to all animals, including humans. All animals sleep at some point in a twenty-four hour cycle.Humans are diurnal rather than nocturnal which means that they sleep in the dark and are awake during the day for the most part. Of course this does not apply to those who work shifts who have to sleep in the daytime and work at night but nature dictates the opposite to this and this is the most common pattern. Within this there are differences in how much sleep different people need which depends on a variety of factors such as age, habit and sometimes opportunity to sleep. We will look here at some of the differences in the amount of sleep different people need and examine some of the reasons for this.

Age related sleep differences

One reason why different people need different amounts of sleep is dependent on the age of the person in question. As a general rule of thumb, it has been suggested that there are seven ages of sleep:

1. Newborns sleep around the clock in either a regular or irregular cycle of doing so.

2. From the age of approximately three months, babies start sleeping through the night and will often sleep at intervals during the day as well.

3.Toddlers need to have up to fourteen hours of sleep along with naps during the daytime.

4.Preschoolers require up to thirteen hours of sleep in a 24 hour period.

5.Children of school age often need up to eleven hours sleep per night.

6.Teenagers require up to nine hours sleep per night.

7. Adults require between seven and nine hours sleep for optimal rest.

It is clear that the amount of sleep needed is different for different age-groups but there are individual differences as well. We have all heard of people of different ages who need less or more sleep than the average amounts outlined above. Sometimes there is an explanation for this discrepancy and at other times there is not.

Genetic Factors

An interesting study which provides some explanation why different people need different amounts of sleep was conducted in California in which a mother and daughter in the same house were in the habit of going to bed at about 11p.m. and getting up at about 4a.m. Other members of the same family slept for the average amount of time and when blood samples from the family were analyzed, it was found that the mother and daughter had a slight gene mutation which was not present in other members of the family. This was proposed to be the reason that they could sleep for shorter periods every night with no ill-effects.

These results leaded the researchers to conclude that individuals are genetically programmed to require a certain amount of sleep. This study is supported by previous studies which exhibited similar findings.

Other Reasons

The quality of sleep is another factor which determines why different people need different amounts of sleep. In simple terms, what this means is that one person may need to sleep longer than another because their sleep quality is not as good as that of the person who needs less sleep.

Pregnancy is another factor which may change the amount of sleep we need. In many cases there is an increased need for sleep during pregnancy so the individual who required less sleep before becoming pregnant may feel the need to sleep more during the pregnancy.

Even though older adults need the same amount of sleep as younger ones, the sleeping pattern may change with age i.e. the sleep becomes lighter and perhaps the older person is awake more often during the night which often leads to a habit of having a nap during the day.

If one is deprived of sleep, the need to sleep becomes greater and when the opportunity arises to sleep an individual in this instance will sleep for longer than usual.

Some doctors point out that in some cases of insomnia the problem is not insomnia but simply that the person needs less sleep than the average person, Changing one's perception of the amount of sleep one needs if this is less than average can go a long way towards managing this.

Stress and a bedtime routine not conducive to sleep may result in the quality of sleep being impaired thus leading to a longer quantity of sleep to make up for poor quality of sleep.

Summary and Conclusion

It is clear that although there are general guidelines about the amount of sleep we need different people do indeed need different amounts of sleep depending on age, genetics, habit, quality of sleep among other factors. It can be said that there are as many sleeping preferences as there are people.

The right amount of good quality sleep enhances one's quality of life so the best rule of thumb is to sleep as much or as little as you need regardless of the average sleep guidelines and keep in mind that the amount of sleep needed is a very individual thing and can vary greatly from one person to another


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    • Kate Mc Bride profile image

      Kate McBride 4 years ago from Donegal Ireland

      Thanks for stopping by Mary Merriment and for reading and commenting. Glad you liked the hub.

    • Mary Merriment profile image

      Mary Merriment 4 years ago from Boise area, Idaho

      My husband and I always had different sleep needs. He could always get by on 5-6 hours of sleep where I have constantly required about 9 hours. This is a very interesting and informative article.

    • Kate Mc Bride profile image

      Kate McBride 5 years ago from Donegal Ireland

      It looks like the shorter amount of sleep that you get during the week suits you better poshcoffeeco.

      At least you don't have to rush off to work at the weekends which is a consolation even if you don't get good rest from the extra sleep.

    • poshcoffeeco profile image

      Steve Mitchell 5 years ago from Cambridgeshire

      Kate, it is interesting about the different amounts of sleep certain age groups may or may not need. During the working week I get between 5 and 7 hours per night and am so glad when the weekend comes as I always plan on sleeping longer. Plan being the operative word. Turns out I am awake at my normal time so have to go make a cup of tea or coffee, have a read of a book before I can drop off again. When I do wake up again I feel worse than I do when only having 5 hours of sleep. How annoying is that?

    • Kate Mc Bride profile image

      Kate McBride 5 years ago from Donegal Ireland

      You are welcome. I am glad you found it useful.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for sharing this useful information.

    • Kate Mc Bride profile image

      Kate McBride 5 years ago from Donegal Ireland

      Thanks for stopping by and for taking the time to leave your positive and much appreciated comment

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 5 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      I do agree with yr hub. My toddler needs at least 10-12 hrs of sleep while my teenage daughter needs 5-6 hrs only ! I need at least 8-20 hrs! Voted up and interesting