How Long Should Young Adults Sleep?

how much sleep do young adults need

If you are asking, how long should young adults sleep? You are not alone.

Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. The way you feel while you are awake depends in part on what happens while you are sleeping. Thus, there is an immense benefit to a good night’s sleep.

Let us dive a little deeper into sleep and its relevance to health. During sleep, your body supports healthy brain function to maintain physical fitness. Getting enough sleep is essential for people of all ages to stay healthy. In young adults, who are still in their developmental stages, there is added benefit to sleep in that it also helps support growth and development.

Medical professionals agree that Young adults should regularly sleep for approximately seven or more hours per night to promote optimal health.

Why Sleep is Important for Young Adults

Despite the advantages of sleep, people routinely cut back on their schedule for various reasons to meet the demands of activities of daily living. The reasons for cutting back on the sleep schedule often include work, family demands, or even watching a good television show. It is certainly okay to periodically cut back on one’s sleep schedule. Making it a habit and not having enough sleep routinely could result in some health issues, one of them being obesity. Other medical problems that may result from lack of sleep include conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, poor mental health, stroke, and even early death.

While depriving yourself of sleep chronically may result in some of the above consequences, even one night of short sleep can affect you the next day. Not only are you more likely to feel sleepy, but you are also more likely to be in a bad mood and be less productive. You may find yourself consuming large doses of caffeinated products to stay awake. This can further lead to fatigue, sleep-walking, and further consequences, such as sleeping while driving, resulting in vehicle accidents.

You may also want to read: Why are Young Adults So Lonely?

So How Long Should Young Adults Sleep?

Sleep is thus essential for optimal health. Healthy sleep requires adequate duration, good quality, appropriate timing and regularity, and the absence of sleep disturbances or disorders.

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The Following are Tips for Sleeping:

  • Sleeping for less than 7 hours per night regularly is associated with some adverse health outcomes, as stated above. These negative outcomes include weight gain and obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and stroke, depression, and increased risk of death. Sleeping less than 7 hours per night is also associated with impaired immune function, increased pain, impaired performance, increased errors, and greater risk of accidents.
  • Sleeping for more than 9 hours per night regularly may be appropriate for young adults, individuals recovering from sleep debt, and individuals with illnesses. For others, it is uncertain whether sleeping more than 9 hours per night is associated with health risks.
  • People concerned they sleep too little or too much should consult their healthcare provider. These providers could work with you to optimize sleep patterns.

Causes of Young Adults’ Sleep Deprivation

Several factors can contribute to the lack of sleep in young adults. Insufficient sleep during this critical growth period arises from physiological, behavioral, sociocultural, and environmental changes. Little is known about the influences on sleep among young adults. Factors known to affect adolescents and young adults often occur simultaneously and include:

  • Hormonal time shift and early school start times: In early adolescence, teens and young adults experience a change in their circadian rhythms, causing the peak production of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone, to occur later in the evening, to morning hours, from around 11 pm to 8 am.
  • School schedules further complicate the change in regular sleep cycles. Forty-two percent of public high schools and college classes start before 8:00 am, and forty-three percent begin between 8:00 am and 8:29 am. These start times lead young people to start their day before they have slept the recommended seven or more hours. Nearly 70% of young adults report 7 or fewer hours of sleep on an average school night. This nightly’ sleep debt’ can contribute to chronic sleep deprivation.
  •  Hectic after-school schedule: Homework, sports, other extra-curricular activities, part-time work, and social commitments may further contribute to late bedtimes for this population.
  • Leisure activities: a stimulating environment, such as television, the Internet, and computer gaming, late into the night and morning hours may delay a young adult’s bedtime.
  •  Light exposure: light cues the brain to stay awake. In the evening, lights from televisions, mobile phones, and computers can prevent adequate production of melatonin. These objects are routinely found in young adults’ environments and do not help promote their sleep or sleep duration.

Young adults may harbor underlying disease states, impacting their sleep cycle or duration. These underlying sleep disorders, such as restless legs syndrome or sleep apnea, can affect how much sleep a young adult gets.

If lack of sleep is still a problem despite your best efforts, suggestions include the following:

  • Assess your sleep hygiene. For example, factors that may interfere with your sleep quality include a noisy bedroom, a lumpy mattress, or the habit of lying awake and worrying.
  • Consider learning a relaxation technique to help you wind down in readiness for sleep.
  • Avoid having any food or drink that contains caffeine after dinnertime. This includes coffee, tea, cola drinks, and chocolate.

Going through these external contributory factors and ensuring they are correctly identified and eliminated could resolve sleep deprivation issues. Identifying and dealing with these issues upfront is crucial and may prevent unnecessary physician visits or psychosocial counseling costs.

Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Young Adults

The developing brain of a young adult needs between seven and 10 hours of sleep every night. The effects of chronic (ongoing) sleep deprivation may include the following:

  • Concentration difficulties
  • Mentally ‘drifting off in class
  • Shortened attention span
  • Memory impairment
  • Poor decision making
  • Lack of enthusiasm
  • Moodiness and aggression
  • Depression
  • Risk-taking behavior
  • Slower physical reflexes
  • Clumsiness, which may result in physical injuries
  • Reduced sporting performance
  • Increased number of ‘sick days’ from work because of fatigue
  • Truancy.

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The above list indirectly may cause other severe issues for the young adult, which could result in you dropping out of school, becoming entangled in the legal system, serving jail time, or imprisonment. The solution is getting enough sleep; thus, recognize the above problems when they surface and deal with them immediately to prevent untoward future adverse consequences.

Necessary Habits to Improve Sleep in Young Adults

  • Choose a relaxing bedtime routine; for example, have a bath and a hot milky drink before bed, or use meditation or mindfulness activities. Gentle yoga may also help. Medications should come as a last resort. If you feel that you need medications, discuss your sleep issues with your provider. They are best at diagnosing your condition and implementing the best interventions, which may or may not always be to resort to drug therapy.
  • Be consistent. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, including on the weekends. Moving these times for a few minutes before or after the set times may not pose problems.
  • Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature.
  • Remove electronic devices such as televisions, computers, and phones from the bedroom.
  • Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime.
  • Get some exercise. Being physically active during the day can help you fall asleep more easily at night.
  • Start your bedtime routine a little earlier than usual (for example, 10 minutes) after four weeks. Do this for one week.
  • Add an extra 10 minutes every week until you have reached your desired bedtime.
  • Set up a comfortable sleep environment.
  • Set up a regular wake-up time.
  • Avoid staying up late on the weekends. Late nights will undo your hard work.

Although the amount of sleep you get each day is essential, other aspects of your sleep also contribute to your health and well-being. Good sleep quality is also necessary.

Signs of poor sleep quality include not feeling rested even after getting enough sleep, repeatedly waking up during the night, and experiencing symptoms of sleep disorders (such as snoring or gasping for air). Improving sleep quality may be helped by better sleep habits or being diagnosed and treated for any sleep disorder you may have.

how long should young adults sleep

In addition to avoiding all the elements that may cause sleep deprivation discussed above, this puts you in a pattern of a successful young individual destined for success. You have several years ahead of you and are now taking the time to formulate good sleep habits that prevent poor health, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Obesity and type 2 diabetes are some of the most challenging medical problems to manage in our society today. Medical complications associated with these conditions are countless. As discussed above, some psychosocial needs are associated with sleep deprivation. Thus, the answer to all of this as a young adult is getting enough sleep, at least 7 hours.

A Few Final Words

I hope this post, “How long should young adults sleep?” gives you the insight you need. Young adults need to engage in a routine of good night’s sleep. You are at your developmental stages in life. Thus engaging in a sleep pattern that leverages approximately 7 hours of sleep a night will yield positive outcomes.

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Christine Udeani, JD
Christine Udeani, JD

Christine is a dedicated mother of six young adults and a teenager who has made significant contributions to the online world through her writing and entrepreneurship. She attended Northwestern University, Strayer University, Thomas M Cooley School of Law, NWCULAW, and holds degrees in business, Law, and Communications. She shares tips and experiences to help young adults and their parents with this generation’s issues.

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