How much sleep do we really need?

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If we were to say to you, “How much sleep do people need each night?” it’s likely that the majority of you would have the same answer – 8 hours, right? It is something that we have had drilled into us over the years, from a young age. If you don’t get your 8 hours, you won’t be able to concentrate. If you don’t get your 8 hours, you’ll be hungrier and moodier the next day. If you don’t get your 8 hours, there are potential health risks. This is what we’ve been told forever, it seems. However, perhaps that isn’t the case at all. How much sleep do we really need?

Meet the experts

Daniel Kripke, M.D, is a sleep expert and professor who has worked at the Sleep Center at Scripps Clinic, as well as in the Department of Psychiatry at the UCSD School of Medicine. Over the years, this physician has conducted a ton of research into how much sleep we really need, but he isn’t the only one. In fact, plenty of researchers have been looking into how many hours of sleep we truly need to be functioning, healthy adults. The thing is, we may have been lied to…

Commercials

How many commercials have you seen that ask you whether you’re getting your eight hours or not? Most of the time, these will then try to sell you some kind of sleeping aid or an energy drink. After all, if you’re not getting eight hours a night then you’re unlikely to function as a human being, right? According to the researchers, however, this just isn’t the case. In fact, many of the experts recommend against taking popular sleeping tablets regularly as they can have an adverse effect on how we do function. They can even impact our health and mortality rates!

Am I sleeping enough?

So, how do you know how much sleep you really need? According to research, most people tend to sleep around six and a half hours a night. No research supports any claim regarding eight hours sleep – it just doesn’t exist! Instead, you need to focus on creating healthy sleep habits to make sure that the shut-eye you’re getting is as good as it can be. This means no long, afternoon naps, no heavy meals before bed, sticking to a bedtime routine, and allowing natural light to wake you up in the mornings. Our bodies will know when it’s time to drift off and wake up if we follow these tips.

Such a thing as too much sleep

What we have been told is that less than eight hours sleep is terrible for us, but that’s not entirely true. In fact, research has shown that there is a U-shaped curve correlation between the hours we sleep and our mortality. Five and a half hours sleep or less a night can impact on our health, but the other side of the U is higher. In fact, those who sleep 9-10 hours each night could find themselves a lot unhealthier than those who sleep less time. If you find yourself sleeping too little, or too much, then it may be time to go and see your doctor as it could be a sign of something more serious.

So, to answer the question, how much sleep do we really need? Research seems to dictate between six and seven hours is optimal, but it’s good to measure it in quality more than quantity. If you wake up feeling refreshed and aren’t napping for hours through the day, you’re probably getting as much sleep as you need.

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