— Seven hours of shut-eye: That’s the minimum amount of
sleep that adults need each night for best health, according
to new recommendations from a panel led by a University of
Washington sleep expert.
functioning effectively — without guzzling gallons of coffee
— could require even more time between the sheets, said Dr.
Nathaniel F. Watson, a professor of neurology and co-director
of the UW Medicine Sleep Center.
hours — that’s the lower limit of the threshold,"
said Watson, who is also incoming president of the American
Academy of Sleep Medicine, which issued the guidelines
recently, jointly with the Sleep Research Society. "We
don’t want people walking away thinking, ‘I need only
seven hours of sleep a night.’"
the 15-member panel declined to put an upper limit on ideal
sleep for adults aged 18 to 60 after spending a year reviewing
more than 5,300 scientific articles about the link between
sleep and optimal health. The results were published in the
is a general recommendation for what it takes to remain alert
and productive without stimulants," Watson said, adding
that the advice applies to those older than 60 as well.
nine hours or more a night on regular basis actually might be
appropriate for young adults, people recovering from sleep
deficits and those who are ill. It’s not clear whether
sleeping so long is ideal for everyone else — but it’s
almost certainly better than sleeping too little, the
that message across may be difficult in the U.S., where about
a third of people aged 18 and older say they sleep six hours
or less a night, according to a new federal study.
deprivation is sometimes seen as a badge of the busy or a
marker of determination, said Watson. He pointed to the
Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson, who has a famous Twitter
the zeitgeist of our times," he said. "We’re
trying to get at this notion that if you’re Type A, you don’t
sleep. How do we change that?"
the Seahawks media crew nor Wilson immediately responded to
questions about Watson’s concern — or about how much sleep
Wilson racks up each night.
sleeping less than seven hours a night is associated with all
kinds of health problems: weight gain and obesity, diabetes,
high blood pressure, heart disease, depression — and a
higher risk of early death, the researchers found. It is also
linked to decreased immune-system function, greater pain
sensitivity, problems performing at work or other activities,
increased errors and a higher risk of accidents, the group
determine how much sleep is enough, Watson recommended that
people conduct a three-week experiment.
to bed when you’re tired, wake up spontaneously when you
feel rested," he said. "Then assess how you feel
during the day, how you perform during the day."
seven hours of snooze time will likely boost both measures, he
predicted. While caffeine and other stimulants temporarily
mask the effects of fatigue, they do nothing to prevent the
toll on health.
really important for people to understand there’s no
substitute for sleep," Watson said.