How Much Sleep Do You Need? 5 Things to Consider

By Chad Taylor on October 21, 2015

When do you sleep? From midnight to 8 or 8 to 4 a.m.? Both of those give you the recommended 8 hours of rest, but they are far from the average. A National Sleep Foundation poll showed that most adults were only averaging 6 hours and 40 minutes during the week and about 7 ½ hours on the weekend. After all, midnight to 8 doesn’t work if you have to be in the office by 8:30. Here are 5 considerations to help you find the right amount of sleep for you.

  1. Could be We Don’t Need as much Sleep as We Think. A UCLA professor of psychiatry set out to see if he could find a “natural” sleep rhythm. With the assumption that it’s our electronics, TVs and electric lights that may be disrupting out sleep cycle, the professor studied 3 tribes – from Bolivia, Tanzania and Namibia — that still lived as hunters and gatherers without interaction with the modern world. A study of 94 healthy, active adults for 1165 days showed that these tribal members averaged 6.4 hours of sleep in the summer and added another hour in the winter. Something to consider.
  2. Take a Sleep Vacation. If you can, set aside a number of days (up to two weeks) when you go to bed at a consistent time and don’t set an alarm clock. At first, you may sleep longer to pay back your sleep debt, but eventually you’ll settle into a pattern of sleeping a pretty much consistent amount of time each night – usually between 7 to 9 hours. That’s how much sleep you need!
  3. Can’t take a Sleep Vacation – Keep a Sleep Diary. Record everything – when you go to bed, if you awaken during the night and, if so, for how long, what time you wake up and any naps you might take. Carefully record how you feel each day when you wake up and at different times during the day. The sleep diary should help you track how much sleep you need and whether you’re a morning lark or a night owl.
  4. Pay Attention. You’re not going on a sleep vacation and, even when you try, your sleep diary goes days without an entry. Then, pay attention to your body. Note when you feel like going to bed. Be aware of when fatigue sets in. How do you feel when you first wake up? If you listen to your body, you’re going to get a pretty good idea of what your sleeping habits are and what they should be.
  5. Make Sleep a Priority. When you learn how much sleep you need to be your best, make it a priority. Instead of trying to stay awake for the late night news or setting your alarm an hour early, adjust your bedtime or waking time to accommodate your body’s need.

Sleep – wonderful, restful sleep – you can work to find the pattern your body wants. Then, make sure you have a bedroom that is cool, dark and quiet with a comfortable mattress because those things will also impact the quality of your sleep. An investment in a good mattress – think about the much heralded latex mattresses – is an investment in feeling good.