Do you really need to get 8 hours of sleep a night?

It’s an adage many of us heard our entire young lives, that you need to get eight hours of sleep a night to not be tired the following day. If you need to know if 8 hours of sleep is really necessary, the answer is usually yes. For most adults, between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night are required for optimal functioning the next day.

For teens and youngsters, those sleep figures are even higher. According to the National Sleep Foundation, teens require between 8 and 10 hours of sleep per night. Young children and babies require even more.

They report that only 15 percent of American teens actually get enough sleep. A 2014 study revealed that babies and young children who did not get enough sleep had increased risks of obesity and a higher BMI as they matured.

Is five hours of sleep enough? For most adults, no. The Sleep Foundation says that people between the ages of 18 and 64 should aim for 7 to 9 hours a night. Teens need between 8 and 10 hours a night. Children 6 to 13 should get between 9 and 11 hours of sleep, while young children require between 10 and 14 hours.

However, older adults over the age of 65 can get away with less sleep. They point out that 5 to 6 hours of sleep per night may be appropriate, but they do recommend people over the age of 65 aim for between 7 and 8 hours of sleep per night.

Why are 8 hours of sleep are important? Sleep is as important for your body as the food you eat. When you sleep, your brain signals your body to release compounds and hormones that manage hunger, retain memory, decrease your risk of adverse health conditions and maintain your immune system.

Sufficient sleep is also important, says the Sleep Foundation, because when you are sleep deprived, you are as impaired as driving with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent.

Does sleep really help when you’re sick? Yes. When you sleep, your immune system releases compounds called cytokines, which have a protective type-effect on your immune system by helping it to fight inflammation, including infection.

When you are sleep deprived, your body can lack these needed cytokines to prevent you from getting sick. Over time, your sleep-deprived immune system can also lose antibodies such as white blood cells.

Tips to sleep better and longer include avoiding stimulants like coffee and alcohol at least four hours before bedtime. Go to bed at the same time each night and do your best to get up at the same time each morning, including weekends. This will create a natural sleep schedule.

Regular exercise, especially first thing in the morning, along with stress-reducing techniques before bed such as journaling, long walks, yoga or even a massage, will help you sleep better and longer. Avoid long naps, especially late in the day.

You can also try making your bedroom more comfortable with an improved mattress like a memory foam. Allow natural light to enter the room in the morning to waken your body.

Also changing the color of the light bulb in your bedroom can have an impact on your sleep. A study has revealed that the color of light bulbs has an impact on sleep patterns with red light being the most effective to help induce sleep.