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Fit February: How Much Sleep We Really Need

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Health experts say sleep is the price the brain pays for learning and memory. Humans need it to repair muscles, strengthen the immune system, and flush out toxins from when we're awake.

However, surveys have shown Americans chronically sleep less than they should. The average American sleeps 6.8 hours a night.

So, how much do you really need?

Dr. Ranji Varghese heads up the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center. According to Varghese, children need the most sleep, between nine and 11 hours. Teenagers need between eight and 10 hours of sleep. Adults are recommended to get about eight hours of sleep, with adults 65 years of age and older needing less (seven to eight hours).

Varghese understands that it's hard to get eight hours every night.

"So, I don't push eight hours. I recommend eight hours, but I'm really, really happy when my patients say they're getting seven hours of sleep," Varghese said.

For all of the people who work non-typical hours and tend to nap, Varghese says it's better to get the eight hours in one chunk to avoid breaking up sleep cycles. But if naps are the only way to get closer to eight hours of sleep over 24 hours, then do it.

Dr. Varghese says lost sleep cannot be "made up" on the weekends.

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