Here's How Much You Should Sleep Based On Your Age

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Good quality sleep is essential for a healthy lifestyle at any age -- but how do you know you're getting enough rest? According to sleep experts, our sleep needs change as we grow older, leading to shifting sleep patterns and possible sleep disorders we might not even be aware of.

Whether you're in your 20s, 30s, 40s, or 50s, here are some of the sleep changes that occur with normal aging and how to navigate them so that you can continue to benefit from a proper night's rest.

Getting Enough Sleep In Your 20s

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Plenty of things influence our quality of sleep. For one thing, sleep patterns change as we grow older, leading to more frequent naps during the day and shortened sleep cycles at night. Lifestyle choices also greatly impact sleep health, which is deeply affected by diet, exercise, hydration, and stress.

In order to form healthy sleep habits that will last a lifetime, experts advise that you work with your body rather than against it and come to understand your sleep-wake cycle, which typically becomes stable in your 20s.

While people in this age group often have a hard time committing to a stable sleep routine due to a busy schedule, active lifestyle, or having to stay up late/wake up early for school or work, the good news is that you don't need to be very strict about it as long as you make sure to practice good sleep habits more often than not.

"People in their 20s should avoid significant intake of caffeine (more than one cup a day), minimize stress, and exercise at least 30 minutes a day to ensure adequate sleep," says Dr. Paul Kaloostian, a California-based neurosurgeon.

Sleep Requirements In Your 30s

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All these recommendations stand true at any age, with experts stressing that eating healthy foods, drinking plenty of water, moderate exercise, and stress management is crucial in improving sleep quality.

While our sleep requirements change with age, adults between 18 and 60 should be getting at least seven hours of sleep a night, per the CDC's recommendation. If you're having trouble hitting this goal, there are things you can do to stabilize your sleep-wake cycle.

One way of achieving that when you hit 30 is to be on the lookout for any sleep issues, such as insomnia or sleep apnea, and start working on them.

"People in their 30s are typically now out of school and working and/or raising a family," says Dr. Kaloostian, who suggests that parents can work on developing their own healthy sleep patterns while teaching their children to do the same.

If you're struggling to wake up early in the morning, one easy trick for building and sticking to a routine is to expose yourself to natural sunlight and eat breakfast within an hour of waking. This helps your mind associate the morning with getting ready to start the day. Similarly, bedtime routines for going to sleep early can include taking a shower or brushing your teeth.

Shifting Sleep Patterns In Your 40s

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As we get older, a change in sleep patterns occurs and the amount of sleep we need begins to decrease.

"Research has shown that Stage 3 of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep decreases by 2 percent each decade up until the age of 60," says Dr. Nicole M. Avena, assistant professor of neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. "Rapid eye movement (REM) also decreases until about 60 with each decade."

While people start experiencing some of these changes in their 30s, a bigger adjustment occurs from age 40 and beyond. At this stage, learning about the sleep changes you can expect in your 50s and 60s and staying on top of your health are the best ways to prevent problems in the future.

"Sleep doesn't just mirror your age, it mirrors your health, too," explains Avena. "Certain health conditions and even your health from day to day can impact how well you sleep at night."

Her advice for 40-somethings is to tailor sleep guidelines to their own needs based on what part of the day (or night) they function best.

"When you understand your body's internal clock, you can start to build a healthy sleep routine around that."

Sleep Changes In Your 50s

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Getting plenty of sun and exercise promotes healthy sleep at any age, even more so in your 50s, which is when the biggest sleep changes start hitting.

"People in their 50s start to develop medical co-morbidities often requiring numerous medications, which can greatly affect one's ability to obtain adequate sleep," says Dr. Kaloostian.

Given that some medication for chronic problems can cause insomnia, it's important to consult with your primary care doctor and devise a sleep management plan that suits your individual needs.

Menopause can also take its toll on sleep quality, as can the decreased function of the hypothalamus and the hormonal changes in melatonin and cortisol that begin manifesting in your 50s. All of these impact not only the quality but also the duration of sleep, leading to sleeping less and waking up frequently during the night.

As always, the key is regular exercise, a healthy diet, optimal hydration, and keeping stress under control.