How Much Sleep Do You Actually Need?
Sleep is essential for maintaining good health, energy and optimal functioning of your mind and body. Yet, you may be curious about how much sleep you actually need. The experts aren’t in full agreement when it comes to this question, and it seems like they are coming out with new recommendations or guidelines every few years.
What is clear, is that on average people are getting 1-2 hours less sleep than they did 60 years ago (1). This is likely not healthy, and in general, experts recommend that you get between 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night as an adult.
A Word About Averages.
However, this 7-9 hour range is actually based upon a bell curve graph, of the average amount of sleep that people need to feel their best (2). When studied more closely, some people fall on the low side, requiring only 6 hours of rest every night. On the other side of the spectrum, some people need 10 full hours of rest, in order to function well (3).
Work With Your Chronotype.
Getting enough sleep may not be the only requirement, when it comes to finding the sweet spot for your nightly rest. How so? Some experts also hold, that in addition to how long you sleep, when you rest is important as well.
A new term in sleep research is “chronotype” and this simply refers to the times of the day and night that you naturally prefer to either be asleep or awake (4). Interestingly, new research points to four distinct chronotypes, and figuring out which one you are can help you to feel more rested.
Larks are chronotypes who wake up early and feel energetic immediately, which many people refer to as “being a morning person.” In contrast, night owls feel most alert in the later day and evening hours, and they tend to go to bed and get up later. In between these two extremes are people who do best in the middle hours. While this information is probably not a surprise, what does this mean for you?
Some experts say that you must work with your natural chronotype or sleep rhythm, in order to feel your best, so you should schedule your bedtime accordingly (5).
A Personal Choice.
This information about the average amount of sleep that people require, and what times you should sleep, is a good starting point. However, these figures are based upon data gathered from the general population, and determining how much sleep you need is a highly personal matter.
For example, new research has discovered a gene in some people, that enables them to function on just four hours of sleep every night (6)! While this obviously isn’t the norm, it just highlights the fact that we’re all different, and you should work to discover what your individual system needs.
One easy way to do so, is to keep a sleep journal, where you chart what times you slept and how you feel. Also, keep in mind that the quality of your sleep matters, not just the quantity (7). You may find with a little trial and error, that limiting caffeine, electronics, stimulating emotions or ideas and so on before bed, are the key to getting improved rest. You may also find the best times for you to go to sleep and wake up, to feel refreshed and ready to take on the day.