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The Science of Sleep - How Much Do I Need?

sleeping womanJust like physical exercise, sleep is a crucial part of your overall health and well-being. Of course, the amount of sleep that we all need varies from person to person. However, there are some guidelines based on scientific research on how much sleep we need based on our age.

Promoting a healthy sleep cycle aligns really well with what we stand for here at our Auckland natural chiropractic clinic. While chiropractic adjustment is one way to help attain a body that is working as optimally as it should, there are other factors that play an important role.

Whether you are a new parent, a working professional, or an older adult, finding the right balance is key. Understanding the importance will help make better decisions about your sleep habits as well as improve your quality of life.

In this article, we’ll dive into the science of sleep and break down the hours required for each age bracket. We’ll also discuss the signs of sleep deprivation and what you can do about it. Lastly, a few ways that a chiropractor can help.

The Five Stages Of Sleep

According to the US National Library of Medicine, there are five stages of sleep. Those being: wake, N1, N2, N3, and REM. The majority of sleep (75%) is spent in the NREM stages.

Wake/Alert: This is the moment before you fall asleep. You are still conscious but showing signs of drowsiness and are beginning to close your eyes. You can also experience drifting thoughts and feeling as though you’re half-awake and half-asleep.

N1 – Light Sleep (5%): This is the lightest stage of sleep. Your breathing is still at a regular rate although there is a decrease in muscle activity and body temperature. Your brain’s alpha waves are replaced with low-amplitude mixed-frequency activity and the stage consists of 5% of total sleep time.

N2 – Deeper Sleep (45%): Your heart and body temperature rate drop. This is where you spend 45% of your time in the sleep cycle. N2 is characterised by the presence of sleep spindles and K complexes recorded in brain activity. Both have been found to play an important role in memory consolidation.

N3 – Deepest Non-REM Sleep (25%): N3 is considered the deepest state of sleep and is characterised by the lowers wave frequency and higher amplitudes. It is the most difficult stage to awaken from and is the stage where the body undergoes maintenance. That means repairing and regrowing tissues, building bone and muscle strength, and strengthening the immune system. People spend less and less time in this stage the older they get.

REM – (25%): REM is the stage of sleep where you will experience dreaming and nightmares. REM has a similar brain activity to the wake stage, with the difference of the skeletal muscles being inactive. This is where breathing can become erratic and rapid eye movement occurs under the eyelids.

Average Sleep Hours (For Each Age Bracket) & Why We Need Deep Sleep

The US National Library of Medicine once again has a breakdown of the average hours of sleep one should get in each age bracket.

New Borns & Infants (Under 1): Newborns require approximately 16-18 hours of sleep each day with no regular rhythm. The longest continuous sleep lasts approximately 2.5 to 4 hours. Over time, between 6 to 12 months, infants will increase their episodes of sleep to approximately 6 hours and overall sleep to 14-15 hours per day.

Toddlers (Ages 1 to 3) & Children (Ages 3 to 9): While toddlers will require approximately 13 hours of sleep each day, that reduces to 11 hours between the ages of 2 to 5.

Adolescents (Ages 10 to 18): At this age bracket, 9-10 hours each night is recommended. Daytime sleepiness is particularly prevalent at the earlier stages of puberty.

Adults (18+): Generally, the older you get, data shows that your sleep time will reduce. While those between the ages of 20 to 30 require 7-9 hours of sleep each night, older adults require 7-8.

The reason why we need deep sleep is found in the observations during the N2 and N3 stages of sleep. Those two cycles are ways that our mind analyses and reconciles our memories. Furthermore, it also allows our bodies to regenerate and strengthen tissue, the immune system, as well as mentally. That is also indicative of why we need the most sleep at the life stages where we are growing.

It is also worth mentioning that these numbers are indicative and outliers exist. We sometimes get asked the question of what the best sleep schedule is at our Auckland chiropractic centre. While we can reiterate the ranges above, you must find the right balance for you.

Signs Of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation essentially means you are either not getting enough sleep or there is a disruption in your sleep-wake cycle. According to Better Health, staying awake for 24 hours is comparable to having a blood alcohol content of 0.1. For reference, the legal limit in New Zealand is 0.05.

What is also interesting is that sleep deprivation affects children and adults in different ways. While adults become slow and groggy, fatigued children tend to ‘rev up’ rather than slow down.

In adults, symptoms of sleep deprivation include:

  • Constantly yawning.
  • Tendency to doze off when not active or doing mundane tasks. (ie, watching TV)
  • Lack of energy waking up in the morning and experiencing throughout the day.
  • Poor concentration.
  • Rapid mood changes and become more irritable.

In kids, symptoms of sleep deprivation include:

  • Temper tantrums and neediness.
  • Moodiness and irritability.
  • Hyperactive behaviour and emotional instability.
  • Reluctance to get out of bed in the morning.
  • Napping during the day.

The sleeping environment can sometimes be the cause of disruption in your sleeping cycle. At our chiropractor South Auckland clinic, we are strong advocates of a balanced sleeping environment. Not too cold, not too hot, minimised light exposure and a chiro approved pillow and mattress.

Sleep deprivation drains your physical energy as well as mental capacity. It is also linked to a number of health problems, from weight gain to a weak immune system. That is why at our Papakura chiropractor, we can’t stress the importance of good sleep enough.

How Chiropractic Care Can Help With Sleep

Treatment is commonly associated with people searching for a chiropractor for hip pain, back pain, or a chiropractor for headaches. Essentially, for people experiencing discomfort in their musculoskeletal system or migraines. However, what may be less known is that there are benefits to seeing a doctor of chiropractic for better sleep. This is because full body chiropractic adjustment can help overall body function, including pressure release and relaxation to fall asleep.

Your posture and sleeping position play a key role in the quality of sleep you’re getting. If your spine is misaligned, your body will tend to compensate with poor posture. While the change is subtle and slow, over time, you’ll be feeling discomfort and trouble falling asleep. A chiropractor X ray will analyse the state of your spine which could help get to the root cause.

Spinal misalignment will also increase the tension our body holds over an extended period of time. This tension can be the cause of what is preventing us from getting a good night’s sleep. Chiropractic treatment help alleviate some of that tension and encourage blood flow, enabling your muscles to relax.

Beyond tension, you may also be feeling pain or discomfort that may be keeping you up at night. Our local chiropractor Manukau and surrounding South Auckland-based clinic is visited by patients every week with similar pain and discomfort. A number of chiropractic services are provided as natural pain relief to get you back to optimal shape and comfort.

For any pain related to a work accident, you may qualify for an ACC chiropractor. You can call our chiropractic office on Papakura Chiropractic to double-check!


How much sleep do you need? Most adults between the age of 18 to 65 need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. As babies, we start off requiring between 16-18 hours of sleep each day, and that drops significantly in adulthood.

A reason why we require less sleep as we get older is the regenerative and growth benefits of sleep. We require more of it in order to grow from an infant into a full-grown adult, and require less thereafter.

As discussed, there are 5 stages of sleep, and they all play a different role in our overall sleep cycle.

If you are having trouble sleeping, the causes can very well lead you to visit a family chiropractic clinic. That is because it offers a natural alternative for alleviating discomfort and pain that is causing those sleepless nights. Papakura Chiropractic is an Auckland-based practice, predominantly serving patients looking for a Takanini chiropractor, a Clevedon chiropractor, and surrounding areas.