A panel of leading sleep experts has announced that adults should be getting a minimum of seven hours of sleep per night. And if you're regularly not getting enough shut-eye, your health may suffer. The new recommendation was published in the June issue of the journal SLEEP.

To get to this conclusion, a team of 15 sleep experts spent a year sifting through more than 5,300 scientific studies that examined the relationship between sleep and optimal health. The conclusion based on these results was published as a consensus statement from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and the Sleep Research Society. 

"Our consensus panel found that sleeping six or fewer hours per night is inadequate to sustain health and safety in adults, and agreed that seven or more hours of sleep per night is recommended for all healthy adults," stated Nathaniel F. Watson, incoming AASM president and panel moderator.

During their review, the researchers found that chronic under-sleeping is linked to health problems such as weight gain, diabetes and heart disease. And, according to these experts, there is no upper limit to how much sleep is good for you.

If you're young, recovering from an illness, or trying to catch up on the zzz's, chances are that nine or more hours might be even better. Meanwhile, caffeine can mask fatigue, but it doesn't actually save you from the risks of under-sleeping.

"This is a general recommendation for what it takes to remain alert and productive without stimulants," Watson told The Seattle Times. To determine how much sleep you need without gallons of coffee, he says it's wise to perform a three-week sleep experiment. "Go to bed when you're tired, wake up spontaneously when you feel rested," said Watson. "Then assess how you feel during the day, how you perform during the day."

Of course, for those of us with jobs, it's probably an experiment best done during vacation, because most of us are struggling to even fit in the bare minimum amount of rest. According to the expert panel, in countries like the US, at least a third of the population isn't getting enough sleep. And just snoozing the right amount of hours isn't enough, either. You need to make sure to have a regular sleeping pattern, and good sleep hygiene.

Of course, this is not a ground-breaking revelation. In February this year, the National Sleep Foundation in the US also published new recommendations for an appropriate amount of sleep, and it started at seven hours. However, their guidelines also advised an upper limit - for adults, the recommended range was seven to nine hours.

Now the AASM says that if you need more, you sleep more. And there's no substitute for sleep, either. Now excuse us while we go take a much-needed nap.