We’ve all heard it before…“sleep experts recommend you get 7 – 8 hours of sleep per night for optimal health.”
But is that true for everyone? The answer is there really is no magic number.
“For years, members of the sleep research and clinical community have been discussing the issue of sleep recommendations,” says Michael Grandner, PhD, instructor in Psychiatry and member of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology. “It’s not like with diet, where we can comfortably recommend a certain number of calories per day based on age and physical activity level. Sleep is a complex puzzle because so many factors play into how much an individual needs, including gender, age, and even your genetics. So a ‘one size, fits all’ block of time may not be the best approach.”
To help solve this puzzle, Dr. Grandner will take part in the first comprehensive review of sleep recommendations in a decade -- the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Time Recommendations Expert Panel (STREP). The STREP initiative, just announced last month, will be comprised of a multidisciplinary team of experts in sleep and from other scientific fields to formulate updated recommendations for age-specific sleep needs.
“There has been a dramatic growth in research on the role of sleep in maintaining health and functioning,” says Dr. Grandner. “It is important to use what we have learned from this research in the last 10 years to make better, more informed recommendations.”
He also notes that there is some evidence that not only have our sleep habits changed in recent years, but many other aspects of our health which are related to sleep have also changed. “For example, as we have seen an exploding obesity epidemic, we have also seen increasing evidence that insufficient sleep and weight gain are closely linked.”
Organizations represented on the expert panel include: American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association of Anatomists, American College of Chest Physicians, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Geriatrics Society, American Neurological Association, American Physiological Society, American Psychiatric Association, American Public Health Association, Gerontological Society of America, and the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society.
In addition to input from these national societies, Dr. Grandner says his role will be to represent researchers who have studied the issue of sleep duration and impacts on health and functioning. “As a group, we will ask questions, review and discuss the evidence, and come to the best conclusions we can, based on the best available data.”
The panel will look at sleep needs at every age, from birth all the way through the end of life. “This is important because different age groups may need different amounts of sleep,” Grandner says.
The NSF anticipates the new recommendations to be released by January 2015.