This is how much sleep you really need every night, according to doctors

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"According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults ages 26 and older need a minimum of seven hours of sleep," says cardiologist Adam Splaver, MD. "But that number can be increased based on your personal experiences - including how much caffeine you drink per day, health risks, and your level of functioning on that minimum amount of sleep." Try shooting for seven hours; then, if you feel like you need more, try to add an extra hour. Every person is different!

You Need: 7 to 9 Hours

According to Dr. Sujay Kansagra, Mattress Firm's sleep health expert and director of Duke University's Pediatric Neurology Sleep Medicine Program, adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night in order to function at their best the next day. "While every person is different, everyone needs to get their full amount of sleep," Dr. Kansagra says. "Since sleep helps to cleanse your brain and repair your body from daily strain, your physical health can begin to take a beating when you skimp on the nightly rest you need."

Teens and Children Need Even More Sleep

While he agrees that adults require 7 to 9 hours a night, Dr. Bryan Bruno, medical director at Mid City TMS notes that children and teens need even more hours to function at their highest level. According to the American Society of Pediatrics, children ages 6 to 12 should sleep 9 to 12 hours a night and teens should get at least 8 to 10 hours of sleep. Younger children need even more.

Effects of Sleep Deprivation: Learning Difficulty

"Sleep is essential for learning new information and to process and retain information that has been learned throughout the day," Dr. Splaver explains. If you don't get enough sleep, you may find that learning is slower and you may be more forgetful throughout the day.

Effects of Sleep Deprivation: Moodiness and Irritability

According to Dr. Kansagra, lack of sleep can cause multiple serious side effects. For one, you may find that you become moody and emotional more easily. "While most people may be irritable the day after a poor night's sleep, as poor sleep continues increased moodiness and decreased ability to control, inhibit or change emotional response will result," Dr. Kansagra says.

Effects of Sleep Deprivation: Impaired Attention Span and Decision Making

It's not your imagination - your brain really doesn't function well when you're sleep-deprived. Your frontal lobe is most affected, Dr. Kansagra explains. "This can cause mental function to be reduced similar to that of a drunk person," Dr. Kansagra says. "Decision making processes are delayed and impaired, attention is shortened, and memory functioning is decreased."

Effects of Sleep Deprivation: High Blood Pressure

One night of poor sleep isn't going to give you hypertension; but on a chronic level, you may end up with a higher blood pressure as a result of your sleep habits. "When chronic sleep deprivation continues, the body must work harder to maintain everyday functioning," says Dr. Kansagra. "One of the most affected organs is the heart. Sleep deprivation can cause elevated blood pressure and when exacerbated, continued sustained high blood pressure can even lead to stroke."

Effects of Sleep Deprivation: Risk of Alzheimer's

Many things can impact your risk of Alzheimer's, including genetics, lifestyle habits, and dietary choices. Neurologists advise exercising regularly and eating foods rich with the nutrients you need to help support brain health. But sleep is another crucial aspect of brain health to keep in mind. "During sleep, beta-amyloid (a protein found in high amounts in the brains of those with Alzheimer's disease) is typically removed from a healthy person's brain," Dr. Kansagra says. "However, when a person becomes sleep-deprived, the protein continues to build up. A recent study found that levels of beta-amyloid increased by 5 percent in sleep-deprived individuals as compared to those that slept normally." Though more research is needed on the connection between sleep and Alzheimer's, there is growing evidence that sleep disturbance and the development of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia are related.

What If You Miss a Night?

If you missed one night of quality sleep, whether it was due to a lack of sleep time or quality, don't fret. There are things you can do to help get yourself through. Make sure you eat energizing foods to best support your body until it can recover - and, Dr. Kansagra says, taking a 20 to 30 minute nap can help to boost your mood and energy. "It is important to time your nap appropriately to avoid entering deeper sleep cycles, which can throw off your circadian rhythm and ultimately make you sleepier," Dr. Kansagra says. "While 20 to 30 minutes may not seem like enough time to properly rest, this is the optimal nap time and short-term solution for getting through the day." She warns against relying on naps long-term, though - you really need full nights of sleep to give your body adequate rest.

How to Fall Asleep Faster

Do you have trouble falling asleep once you're in bed? There are ways to make falling asleep easier. "To fall asleep faster, monitor your alcohol and caffeine intake," Dr. Splaver says. He also recommends daily exercise and that you keep a regular routine. Try going to sleep and waking up at similar times during the week and over the weekend. It may also be helpful to create a bedtime routine to put yourself into the mindset of sleep, Dr. Splaver says. You may want to lower the temperature of your room or do a short meditation. Here are some soothing practices to add into your bedtime routine for better sleep.

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