This is how many hours of sleep research suggests we should aim for (and it’s not eight!)

How many hours of good, solid sleep do you get per night on average? Chances are, you regularly feel like you’ve not had enough. But how many hours of shut-eye should we actually be getting? New research from the University of Cambridge and Shanghai’s Fudan University has found an answer.

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Scientists looked at the sleep habits of almost 500,000 adults between the ages of 38 and 73 and suggested we should be aiming for seven hours – at least from our late-30s onwards.

‘For every hour that you moved away from seven hours, you got worse. It’s very clear that the processes that go on in our brain during sleep are very important for maintaining our physical and mental health,’ said Professor Barbara Sahakian, lead researcher from Cambridge University’s department of psychiatry.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that most adults aged between 18 and 64 should get seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Saying that, it’s important to do what feels right for your body and mind.

The research revealed that too much and not enough rest were both linked to mental health problems and ‘worse cognitive performance’. So it’s certainly not quantity over quality, in this case.

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Consistency is important too, so making up for only getting five hours’ snoozing one night by sleeping for 10 hours the next isn’t necessarily a good idea for your cognitive performance.

Sleep scientist Daniel Gartenberg has previously spoken to Quartz, saying even if you’re in bed for eight hours, you’re probably only asleep for around seven.

‘In order to get a healthy eight hours of sleep, which is the amount that many people need, you need to be in bed for 8.5 hours,’ said Gartenberg. ‘The standard in the literature is that healthy sleepers spend more than 90 per cent of the time in bed asleep, so if you’re in bed for eight hours, a healthy sleeper might actually sleep for only about 7.2 hours.’

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