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How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?

A Doctor Says This Is the Single Most Effective Way to Determine How Much Sleep You Need

chinese woman sleeping on the bed

Sleep is essential, but if you're a bit confused about how much is enough, you're not alone. The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours a night, while the American Academy of Sleep Medicine simplifies it to a minimum of seven. Then there's the widely accepted idea that you should aim for eight hours each night. So, which is it?

"We get into trouble when we apply averages to individuals. Sleep is no different," W. Chris Winter, MD, a sleep specialist at Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine and author of The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How To Fix It, told POPSUGAR. Just as an Olympic athlete may need more than the usual 2,000 calories to fuel her day, some women may need more or less sleep than others.

Dr. Winter believes the Epworth Sleepiness Scale is the most accurate way to assess your sleep needs. "It indicates six to 10 hours as a more appropriate range, as it very much does range from person to person," he said. "This is not how much one can get by with, but rather how much someone truly needs." Essentially, you'll fill out the questionnaire above, which helps evaluate how sleepy you are during the day. "A high score is a great indicator you are not getting enough sleep," Dr. Winter explained. (You can find the full range of scores here. Anything above 11 suggests that you are excessively sleepy; if your score is very high, you should talk to your doctor.)

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Remember too that you may need to fill out the ESS again later. "The number can change over a lifetime, so once you figure out what you need, be open to signs that it might be changing," he said.

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