Sleep is one of the richest and most studied topics in science today. The necessity for all living things to submerge into a daily state of subconscious in order to live well and thrive- it’s fascinating. Scientists have been examining the guidelines for sleep for decades and unlocking the answers to an array of questions along the way- why we need it, why it can be hard to get, how much we need and how it affects our lives. So how much sleep should I get?
According to health.com there’s no normal number of hours that quantifies a good sleep, just like there’s no normal shoe size. Most adults require seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Others seem to manage just fine with six hours of sleep a night. A British study conducted in 2007 found that people who slept the same amount of time, seven hours each night lived longer than people who adjusted their schedules to either add or subtract ‘hours from their nightly slumber.
“Finding your own ideal sleep/wake cycle and staying consistent is key to healthy sleep,” explains Dr. Carol Ash, medical director of the Sleep for Life center in Hillsborough, N.J.
Daniel, Kripke, co-director of research at the Scripps Clinic Sleep Center in La Jolla, CA has been studying guidelines for sleep according to the Time Magazine website and is helping to answer the question, ‘how much sleep should I get?’ In 2002, he compared death rates among more than 1 million American adults who, as part of a study on cancer prevention, reported their average nightly amount of sleep. His studies show that people, who sleep between 6.5 and 7.5 hours a night, live the longest. And people who sleep 8 hours or more, or less than 6.5 hours a night don’t live quite as long. He believes that just as much risk is associated with sleeping too long as with sleeping too short.
It’s possible to get too much sleep. Spending an excess amount of time in bed can even be a sign of other health problems such as depression or chronic fatigue syndrome. Morbidity and sickness is “U-shaped” in the sense that consistent very short sleep and consistent overly long sleep are associated with many illnesses including depression, obesity, and heart disease.
“I think we can speculate about why people who sleep from 6.5 to 7.5 hr. live longer, but we have to admit that we don’t really understand the reasons. We don’t really know yet what is cause and what is effect. So we don’t know if a short sleeper can live longer by extending their sleep, and we don’t know if a long sleeper can live longer by setting the alarm clock a bit earlier. We’re hoping to organize tests of those questions,” Kripke explains.
But don’t sell yourself short, that doesn’t mean that you can shave off hours of much needed rest without consequence. In the same British study mentioned above, scientists found that people who are consistently sleep deprived (defined as sleeping five hours or less a night) are at greater risk for high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems- especially women.
Insufficient sleep also raises your risk for obesity, diabetes, depression, alcoholism, and automobile accidents. Plus, a 2007 University of California–Berkeley study confirmed the obvious: Sleep deprivation directly affects areas of the brain that deal with mood and concentration, leaving tired people grumpy, overly emotional, and unable to focus.
As with anything in life, moderation is essential. Red wine is good for the heart, but it’s important not to overdo it. Exercise if good, but in moderation. Guidelines for sleep are much the same. So how much sleep should I get? Getting either too much or too little sleep can have health complications. Try getting between 6.5 and 8 hours of sleep per night. Try to avoid getting less than 6.5 hours, nor more than 9 hours a night. And try to get the same amount of sleep most nights.