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How Much Sleep?

June 2008

Studies show that people who sleep between 6.5 hr. and 7.5 hr. a night, as they report, live the longest. And people who sleep 8 hr. or more, or less than 6.5 hr., they don't live quite as long. There is just as much risk associated with sleeping too long as with sleeping too short. The big surprise is that long sleep seems to start at 8 hr. Sleeping 8.5 hr. might really be a little worse than sleeping 5 hr.

How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?

Jody commented:

Imagine the methodology: a) survey a bunch of people about their bed times, carefully noting full names, nicknames, and places of residence, then b) scour the deaths page of the newspaper in the hope someone's died; c) graph data, and d) repeat steps b) and c) until all data is collected.

KT commented:

The woman in the top photo will have panda eyes and bad skin in the morning.

I was told that you can figure out how much sleep you need by going to bed when you feel sleepy and getting up as soon as you wake up, for 3 days in a row, and by the third night your body will have found its natural pattern.

Of course that would never work for me, for reasons we are all familiar with.

aeonsim commented:

Heard that sort of thing before It's an interesting question. While working on my thesis and the 12months after I handed it in found I was sleeping for 8-9h a day(1-3am onwards). Now with a job and having to get up regularly at 6:50 (shockingly early!) I've found I've shifted to 6.5-7hours on average and seem just as alert as ever (possibly more alert...).

Matt commented:

Yeah, I've found that much more than 8½ hours tends to make me pretty lethargic; I get tired more easily on less, but tend to be a lot more alert.

Michael commented:

I sleep anywhere from 9-12 hours a night.. But I have medical reasons..

Fraser commented:

I'm shocking. My sleep schedule is all over the place, and always has been.

Christina commented:

I'm also shocking, for medical reasons we're all familiar with :P Although I have found that when your body is beyond exhaustion, 6 hours of natural, very broken sleep beats 8 hours of sleeping pill-induced sleep, even if the quality is worse. I can only assume that's because of the soul-destroying side effects that get inflicted on your system the next day by the drugs as payoff for not going insane and killing yourself from going for long periods without sleep.

After I weaned myself off sleeping pills the first time, I spent a week sleeping between 10-15 hours each night. It was really crazy - I spent the entire week either sleeping or reading and found moving around even a little totally exhausted me. After that, I went back to my normal 8 hours and my health picked back up.

I think everyone has a slightly different rhythm and amount of sleep that they need - anyone remember James and his "I only need 2 hours sleep a night"? I'm also starting to think this can change over time and there are cycles when you need more or less than usual. A lot of the older (i.e 60 or older) people I know either sleep very little or have worse sleep than they did when they were younger - I guess the whole sleep thing is fairly subjective and fluid. Wow, that was a much longer comment than I intended :D