Sleep : Sleep Needs Change Throughout Life

BABIES AGE 0-1

SLEEP NEEDS:

Anything from 10-19 hours in a 24-hour period at birth. By 12 months, they need 12 hours. Babies have lots to learn and because the brain processes that stuff while we're asleep, they need more of it. They have different sleep cycles to adults: just 60 minutes, and may wake more frequently

SLEEP CHANGES:

Newborns don't have a body clock - in other words they don't know when it's night-time because the pathways that enable daylight to synchronise the body clock haven't formed yet. A more solid 24-hour pattern will emerge from two-to-four months old

SLEEP FACTS:

If a mother breastfeeds at the baby's bedtime, the milk is on the mother's body clock and will contain melatonin - the sleep hormone - from her body. Expressed milk from earlier in the day given at bedtime won't contain melatonin

CHILDREN AGE 1-12

SLEEP NEEDS:

From about 12 hours at age one and in early childhood, to eight or nine hours in late adolescence. Sleep duration gradually decreases throughout childhood and if they are not sleeping well, it could be because you are putting them to bed too early

SLEEP CHANGES:

They spend more than 40% of sleep time in the slow wave stage, 10 times that of adults. The sleep cycle changes from 60 minutes at birth, to 75 minutes at two, to the 90/100 minutes of adulthood by the age of six

SLEEP FACTS:

An over-tired child may be hyperactive, seeming to have endless energy when really they need sleep. Good bedtime routines help to synchronize the body clock - natural daylight during the day and dim the lights as the evening progresses

TEENS

SLEEP NEEDS:

Sleep needs change dramatically in the teenage years - not so much in terms of length (they still need about nine hours) but in terms of when they are ready to go to bed - which is much later than at any other time in their lives. It's biology, not willfulness

SLEEP CHANGES:

Their body clocks shift two or three hours forward, meaning they aren't ready for bed until later and can't get up until later. This is because they produce melatonin 90 minutes later than children or adults, so even if you send a teenager to bed at 9pm, they won't be able to sleep until 10.30pm

SLEEP FACTS:

In studies where high schools started the day later, there was a significant change in grades. Even an hour later made a huge difference. Asking teenagers to get out of bed at 6am is like asking adults to get out of bed at 4am, and many typical teenage traits (moodiness and uncommunicativeness) may be due to sleep deprivation

ADULTS

SLEEP NEEDS:

Allowed to sleep unhindered, adults can sleep for eight and a half hours. The average is seven hours. Before electric light, we slept for up to 10 hours a day. In pre-industrial times we may well have slept in two chunks, with relaxed wakefulness in the middle

SLEEP CHANGES:

Sleep patterns change during adulthood. As we age, we find it harder to recover from sleep deprivation and shift work. Stress keeps us awake and weight gain can lead to sleep apnea and snoring. Sleep apnea is three times more common after menopause

SLEEP FACTS:

Women complain more than men about being unable to sleep, but in tests they were found to get more - and deeper - sleep than men

OLDER ADULTS

SLEEP NEEDS:

Given the opportunity to sleep, a sample of over-60s slept for a maximum of seven and a half hours a night

SLEEP CHANGES:

It takes older people longer to fall asleep, which is more broken and can be lighter. They have lower melatonin levels than in their youth. The good news is that the older you get, the less sleep deprivation affects you

SLEEP FACTS:

The eye lens becomes yellow as we age, altering how light passes through it and reducing the amount of blue light (which is the best at resetting our body clock) that gets through

© 2013 Guardian Newspapers Limited.

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