How Much Sleep Do We Really Need to Work Productively?

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Every one of us, on average, will be sleeping 24 years in our lifetime. That’s a pretty long time if you ask me and makes it even more important to know exactly how the phenomenon of sleep impacts us.

And still, there are so many unanswered questions evolving around sleep and how much we need of it. In fact, Most of what we know about sleep we’ve learned in the past 25 years.

One of the biggest problems I’ve discovered is that sleep is such an over talked topic. We get the general idea that we know all about it: how much we need of it, how it impacts us and why this or that happens when we sleep. Once I took a step back to really think about where our knowledge about sleep comes from, I realized that nearly all of it is based on hear-say or what my mom told me when I was in elementary school.

With this post, I’ve set out to uncover once and for all what the most important research has taught us about sleep. And of course, how you can use this knowledge to create an unbeatable daily routine.

Eliminating the 8 hours per night sleep myth

Everyone I’ve asked the question, how much sleep do we need has an answer to the question. A common one – and one that I have given on many occasions – is to respond “Oh yes, I need my 8-9 hours of sleep every night, I know that”.

It turns out, that might not be true after all:

“We’ve all been told you ought to sleep 8 hr., but there was never any evidence.”

Says one of the most acclaimed researchers about sleep Daniel Kripke in an interview. In his most recent study Kripke found that “people who sleep between 6.5 hr. and 7.5 hr. a night, live the longest, are happier and most productive”.

What’s even more interesting here is that sleeping longer than that might actually be worse for your health mentioning that: “Sleeping 8.5 hr. might really be a little worse than sleeping 5 hr.”

Personally, as an 8 hour/night sleeper, this definitely opened my eyes and I have started to experiment by decreasing my sleeping time slightly and see if 7.5 hours makes a difference.

Of course, the general idea about the “one-fits all sleeping amount” is particularly odd, as Jim Horne, one of Europe’s most acclaimed sleep experts mentions in his book: “It’s like saying everybody should have size eight shoes, or be five foot eight inches.”

It seems that finding your optimal sleeping time in between Kripke’s finding is a good way to go. It’s certainly something I’m giving a go now.

The trap of too little sleep: What happens to our brains if we don’t have enough sleep?

“Working overtime doesn’t increase your output. It makes you stupid.”

Now this part is one of the most fascinating aspects about sleep I believe. Did it ever happen to you that someone who got only 4 hours of sleep a night looks just as attentive, fresh and up to his game like you, who spent your 7.5 hours in bed?

Well, the answer is – that someone who is severely sleep deprived is in fact as attentive and awake as you are. With one big difference to you. Here is what a recent study found: The sleep deprived person can in fact deliver the exact same results as someone who isn’t sleep deprived in any exercise. That is, given it is a non repeated exercise and they give it their best shot. Odd right? Now onto this though:

The problem lies elsewhere. Whether we are sleep deprived or not, we lose focus at times. And that is precisely where the sleep deprived person lands in a trap. Once we start to lose focus and have received the right amount of sleep, our brain can compensate for that and increase attention (see the image below for the increased yellow bits that shift your focus back.). If we are sleep deprived, our brain can’t refocus.

“The main finding is that the brain of the sleep-deprived individual is working normally sometimes, but intermittently suffers from something akin to power failure,”

says Clifford Saper from Harvard. In the following image you can see what this means. As you lose focus and your attention is drifting, the yellow bits show how people with enough sleep, activate parts in their brain to refocus at the task at hand. Sleep deprived people will have barely any activity in that area (the amygdala reactivity) and will struggle to regain focus:

So really, this can turn into a huge trap. The person bragging that they only slept 4 hours and still do great work, well, they are actually right with what they are saying. The only issue is that, they have no brainpower to steer them back to focus once they lose attention. Even worse so, sleep-deprived people don’t notice their decrease in performance.

Sleep-deprived workers may not know they are impaired. “The periods of apparently normal functioning could give a false sense of competency and security when, in fact, the brain’s inconsistency could have dire consequences,”

Sleeping your way to success

Not getting enough sleep is a pain. So now, onto the good stuff of what we can actually do, to optimize our sleeping habits to new heights and sleep our way to success as Arianna Huffington puts it.

When it comes to developing focused techniques that help you work on a better sleeping habit, the web isn’t short of answers. Querying some of the smartest brains I know, here are the top 3 things to do, in order to have better sleep and work more productively:

1.) Start napping every day – here is why and how:

There is a confession I have to make, at least at this point. For the past 2 years, since I started working on Buffer, I have been napping every day, for around 20 minutes. One of my favorite writers and New York Times bestselling author Michael Hyatt puts an equal focus on napping for many years and posted his insights in this great post about napping.

-       As Michael points out in his post, some of the core benefits of napping is that you can restore alertness of your brain with just a few minutes of falling into light sleep.

-       Personally, I know that my productivity takes a dip at 3pm every day. This is exactly where I place my nap, and it has been one of the most powerful ways to bring my productivity back to 100% for a good 1,5 hour session after that.

-       In a great video Michael pointed me towards, one of the key benefits of napping daily is to simply feel less tired. Although this may sound stupidly obvious, yet can help a great deal to contribute to your daily happiness. Check out this quick video on this topic.

To get into a napping routine is often very difficult. Here are the top 3 ways I think you can make it work:

  • Especially if you work in a big office, or you tend to feel others might consider you slacking off. One of the key things I found here is to make others aware of the fact, that you are napping every day. Try and get encouragement from your co-workers or your boss, so you can set yourself up for developing a successful habit.
  • Timing is of course very important. In fact, in the video above, the common sentence of “napping doesn’t work for me” is often down to the fact that people nap too long. Don’t let your naps exceed 30 minutes max, personally, 20 minutes has proven to be the optimal timing for me.
  • The last tip I find most crucial is to make napping a consistent habit. Keep both the frequency (daily) and the time of day (3pm seems to be a very popular time as productivity dips) the same and consistent.

2.) Develop a sleep ritual – here is how and why:

How can you make this as easy as brushing your teeth every evening? It’s very simple, develop a sleep ritual, that will set you up for a great night of sleep ahead. Rituals, different from habits can be something a lot more compelling:

“Whilst habits are often seen as activities you have to force yourself to do, rituals are instead activities which you are pulled towards.”

Writes Joel in this great post on developing a sleep ritual. When it comes to creating a sleep ritual, one of the key things is to have the last activity completely disengage you from the tasks of the rest of your day.  Here are a few activities you can try to properly disengage:

- One of the things Joel is doing every night before going to bed is a 20 minute walk on a set down and specific route and time. It is a great way to clear your head and be ready for sleep. For a specific way to develop your evening walk, try Coelho’s speed exercise.

- Another part that has worked greatly and Joel has taught me is to read fiction. Different to non-fiction books it is a great way to completely disengage, enter a different world and mindset and then be ready for great sleep.

- The last point I had great success with is to have a clear wake-up time by tying it to an immediate event afterwards. If you just set your alarm for say 7.30, but you always hit the snooze button, try something else. Keep the alarm, but plan the first thing you will do and tie it to a specific time. For me, this is for example, that I have breakfast immediately at 7.40. Or that my support session starts at 7.45. Joel hits the gym exactly 5 minutes after wake-up time. Those things can help a great deal to get over the inertia of getting out of bed.

3.) Making sure you are tired in every dimension:

A key part of the book by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwarz about The Power of Full Engagement, is to be aware that for the highest quality of sleep, you need to be drained, both physically and mentally to some extent.

Making sure that you have both at least one mentally challenging exercise as well as a physically challenging one, can make all the difference to falling into a deep sleep that recovers all areas of your body.

Here is also a great article about whether exercise is a requirement for sleep.

Quick last fact: Women need more sleep than men

Here is a super interesting last fact. Women need a tad bit more sleep than men:

“The average is 20 minutes more, but some women may need slightly more or less than this.”

Why? This is because women’s brains are wired differently from men’s and are more complex, so their sleep need will be slightly greater, says Horne in his book.

Sleep and how we deal with it every day is a fascinating topic I believe. What are your tips that you’ve found to make your more productive when it comes to sleep? Do you think some of the tips above might be helpful to trigger a better daily workflow?

Photocredit: The PhineasColton Witt

About the Author

Leo Widrich

Co-founder and CMO at Buffer. I enjoy writing about lifehacks, social media tips and updates to Buffer. For some more personal posts, check out leostartsup.

  • http://acrossio.com/ Josh Liu

    Great article, Leo. Have you read Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Body? He has some very controversial and interesting suggestions on sleeping too. Check it out, if you are interested. :)
    Totally agreed on the power of nap. In Taiwan, schools force everyone to have a nap. haha, every company should do that too. :P

    • LeoWid

      Hi Josh, thanks a lot for stopping by, yep, I’ve looked at Tim Ferriss’ book a few times, he really writes about some fascinating stuff, I’ll have to revisit his sleeping points though for sure!

      Wow, that’s very cool, naps should absolutely be prescribed! :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/jasonreuter.let Jason Reuter

      I 2nd Josh’s point about checking out those points in T4HB. Ferriss has some amazing points about sleep pattern experimentation including one where you’re basically awake for the better part 24 hours with intermittent periods of 20 minute naps. I’m not quite sure I could do it full-time, but I tried it on a Saturday a few months back when I needed to put in a ton of work on a project. Honestly, I was no worse for the wear.

  • http://www.qualitylogoproducts.com/blog Mandy Kilinskis

    Really great post, Leo! I unabashedly love napping. It’s one of the things I miss most since I started working in an office. My coworkers and I are attempting to warm up our supervisors to the idea of nap time, but so far, no dice.

    Definitely need to think about my sleep habits, though. I get 7.5 hours pretty consistently and it seems to be the optimal amount, but I I might have to test it. :)

    • LeoWid

      Hi Mandy, awesome to see you here and that’s a shame that in your office you don’t have a chance of napping. Maybe you could present them with this post and show them how much more productive you would become? :)

      • http://www.qualitylogoproducts.com/blog Mandy Kilinskis

        I’ll give it a try. Who could argue with science?

        • Quick Thought

          Let’s hope your upper management isn’t of the Republican persuasion then… Ha ha… Best of Luck

  • http://www.sparringmind.com Gregory Ciotti

    Dude, rocking my world with this post. I was just going to start gathering data on this myself, but I’m all set now :)

    • LeoWid

      always appreciate the comment from one of the best content writers I know, glad I could do some legwork for you here Greg! :)

  • http://PaddleforChange.com Josh Tremblay

    Holy mack this is a great article. Going to reread it again. Particularly appreciate the idea of developing a sleep ritual, i.e. Taking a walk before bed to get your mind ready for rest.

    • James Leo

      Thanks for sharing to all informative post for readers.

  • PaulJolicoeur

    Thank you for this great post. Very informative. I have always loved a quick afternoon nap and found it to be the boost I need!

  • louisblythe

    I am big on naps paired with lots of sleep!

  • Page Lynch

    I’d like to see that brain activity with a well-rested person vs. a coffee drinker; or perhaps a napper vs. a cup of coffee at 3pm. We use coffee as a booster so, that would be fascinating, I think.

    • Stephen Major

      Those are other great points with over 100 million americans suffering from sleep disorders, the variables you pointed out and several others not thought of, articles like this and studies like this article references are useless and should be taken for what they are: tips that might help you if you happen to fall into the narrow category of test subjects

    • Anthony Somes

      Here is a great article I found in national geographic based on caffeine I found a few years ago. Heavy users, 250+mg a day, will find a great reduction in visual and auditory function without the normal “Cup O’ Joe” but end up with slightly higher function when the brain is satisfied.

      • Fais

        What was the articles title?
        Thanks

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=581007839 Joris Satyadharma

    Awesome post! Have not had a specific nap schedule but have done a power
    nap (5-10 min) every now and then when I start to feel sluggish in the
    afternoon. Works like a charm :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/jasonreuter.let Jason Reuter

      Couple that with an espresso when you wake up! ;)

  • http://ijustdid.org Jonha Revesencio

    Wow, the human brain is fascinating indeed! I didn’t know women needed more sleep than men..

    For someone who used to sleep at weird hours, I’ve noticed that I usually FORCE myself to really focus when I lack sleep. Like when I have 4 hours or less of sleep, I really make an effort to stay focus and awake and perhaps it’s just me, I tend to be more sleepy whenever I have MORE than 8 hours of sleep than when I lack sleep.

  • http://twitter.com/RobertReiz Robert Reiz

    Great post. Thank you for sharing this.

  • http://www.andygambles.com/ Andy Gambles

    Pah who needs sleep when we have the internet!

  • http://twitter.com/FortunePick Michal Ugor

    Hey Leo, this article is very solid.

    One thing that works very well is to have a fixed time to wake up and then go to bed solely based on how tired you are – so you let your body tell you how much sleep it need once biological clock gets used to waking up the same time.

  • SimpleBuyer

    Just a caveat, this mostly contradicts what my insomnia specialist recommends. There’s no reference to the benefit of keeping a regular schedule. Should you find your optimal amount of sleep? Of course. I would argue, though, that getting a little less than optimal sleep on a regular schedule is more beneficial than getting the same, even optimal amount of sleep every night.

    • Stephen Major

      Agreed and everyone will need different based on varibles

  • http://www.facebook.com/drogers David Rogers

    Do more faster by napping – very counter intuitive but my own experience validates that this is true. Thanks for the good read.

    • LeoWid

      Hi Dave, awesome to see you here and yes, that’s a great point. It is at first very counter-intuitive, and I think that is what holds most employers off from allowing it. If only they could give it a try and see the amazing effect napping has! :)

      • http://www.facebook.com/evictorov Eugene Victorov

        Leo, could you give any advice on napping in the open office? I work in the big company with open-office policy, and there’re no isloated places to nap in (except gentelmen rooms, but that’s not a solution :) ).

  • http://innovationimitation.com/ Mike Polischuk

    Great post, Leo, thank you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/DavidGLarson Dave Larson

    Thanks for writing this! People need to know ;-)

    Sleep cycles average 90 minutes, and waking in the 30-60 minute (or 75-105 minute, etc) range leaves you groggy and needing extra recovery time. Knowing that, I’ve been very successful planning my sleep around 90 minute cycles, and adjusting naps to compensate as needed.

    For example, if I need to get up after very little sleep, I’ll shoot for a 2-cycle sleep (~3 hours) and take extra care not to wake in the groggy range. Then I’ll try to get in a minimum one-cycle nap (~90 minutes) and be sure to get no less than 5 cycles (~7.5 hours) the next night.

    Studies have shown that the optimal nap time is ~12 minutes. A little more doesn’t bring much additional benefit, and too much more leaves you in the groggy/need too much recovery part of the cycle. And anything less than 10 minutes doesn’t give much benefit. The main thing is to make sure not to be less than 10 and more than 25 minutes.

    Also, our circadian cycle picks up after our hormonal cycle leaves off each day, and the gap between the two is the “mid-day slump.” That’s the easiest time to nap, so when I find myself in the “slump gap” I try to make sure to get a nap immediately! It allows ease of falling asleep quickly and deeply. Diet and sleep will affect when your “slump gap” appears, so it’s best to track how it works for you :-)

    • freshhawk

      Watch out for apps like sleepyti.me. Sleep cycles “average” 90 minutes but it’s variable from person to person. If sleepyti.me assumes you have a 90 minutes sleep cycle and you actually have a 95 minute sleep cycle then after 7.5 hours of sleep the calculation is off by … 25 minutes, waking you in the groggy zone.

      And that’s just if you are 5 minutes away from average, a lot of people will be a fair bit more than 5 minutes off the 90 minute average.

      Any app that assumes a 90 minute sleep cycles and assumes you fit that will basically wake you up at a random point. People are variable enough and sleep for enough cycles during the night that any app that uses the average is selling snake oil.

    • Glasgowgirl

      Your right I suffer from sleep disorder that restricts my rem sleep meaning I only get an average of 11minutes a night in rem stage instead of the healthy 90-120minutes a night others spend in rem collectively per night. I sleep long periods but rem does not increase, meaning even sleeping 14hours I would not feel rested properly. My sleep debt is continually increasing. So many people don’t understand how important rem sleep is and how quality of sleep in fact is more important than amount of time spent sleeping!

    • FacilitatorMike

      Dave, you are right on the money. The 90 minute sleep cycle is the secret to finding energy. If you awaken when you’re at the top of the cycle, you feel great. If not, then not so much, no matter how much sleep you have. And yes, naps are killer productivity enhancers, but very much in opposition to the puritan work ethic prevalent in the US. Siesta, anyone?

  • http://twitter.com/digiogi steve taylor

    Looks like Napoleon had it right, then, when he said “Six hours sleep for a man, seven for a woman, eight for a fool.”
    Superb post, Leo, very thorough, wise and enlightening.
    A couple of bits of sleep wisdom that are implicit in your analysis, but you don’t mention:
    – the rule for a nap is ‘either 20 minutes or 2 hours, nothing in between’ – because you either need to wake up before you get into a full sleep cycle or go right through one. The extra 30 minutes in the 2 hours is to allow time to fall asleep (average is 14 minutes, apparently) and to come around
    - the notion of “forty winks” really makes sense – it certainly works for me, literally nodding off and immediately waking, I’m aware of going very very briefly into that twilight zone between being awake and being asleep and immediately jumping back out of it – definitely restores energy and prolongs effective wakefulness, for me anyway
    Thanks for opening up a fascinating and powerful subject.

  • Marc

    What I find interesting in your article, is that in your quest for understanding sleep you only focused on the brain but totally neglected the full picture. Sleep is also a period where the body “repairs” itself, yet your article didn’t look at circulation, heart-beat patterns, biorhythms, hormone releases, etc…

    That would’ve made for a more useful and interesting article, I feel.

    • ronnie

      I believe you are quite right. I do a lot of exercise which really puts a lot of strain on my body and hence i require a lot of sleep in order to recover. If I ever try to go on less sleep i am always feeling very tired and have difficulty focusing. So again depending on your lifestyle, age, gender, you may require more of less sleep.

  • http://twitter.com/JanetAronica Janet Aronica

    LOL to the “women need more sleep because their brains are more complex” part :)

  • Yeah

    “Why? This is because women’s brains are wired differently from men’s and are more complex”

    come on dude, come on! Site removed from favorites.

    • http://twitter.com/brennenbyrne Brennen Byrne

      Seconded.

      • Scott

        But it is true. Just look up any of the research. Watch a few Ted talks, or just type in the phrase. There is HEAPS of research showing that to be true. It is one of the reason women are better at multi tasking. There is lots of physical differences and don’t confuse complex with better or worse – it is just complex.

        • Stacy

          I remember reading a book called The Female Brain. It was a student’s dissertation and had marvelous facts. Like that at an early age, female communication centers grow whereas the men’s communication centers shrinks in order to give more room to the amygdala (aggression center). Interesting stuff.

          • OR PICK A NAME

            :Face Palm: I dont mean to be rude or overly direct but i find it hard to find many/any females that i would describe as complex thinkers or great multitaskers. I think that can be explained by women falling in to stereotypical roles of brainless hobbits where as men understand they need to be providers and are constantly aspiring higher.

    • Joeyblow

      It was a quote from a book. Not his personal opinion.

    • http://www.guddina.com/ Tim Stiffler-Dean

      That’s rather funny that you got offended by something that’s not offensive whatsoever. I just asked two women what they think about this statement, and they agree.

    • disqus_uyVtisqxiI

      The statement was “more complex”, not better, or more intelligent. Though based no your reaction…

  • sahaguru

    Sleep read it revers, it spells peels, that means sleeps, peels the skin to refresh, in the smae surroungings, you feel fresh. As we grow old and old sleep will diminish low and low. Giving rest to the SPINE, which is horizontal while sleeping, means we turn to animals, with a vertical spain we all do different than animals. Sleep only after the digest is complete,a most healthyhabit tobe practiced.

  • Christine McVeigh

    Great article! Thanks for all the insight. Every so often I like a 9 hours sleep. The body just asks for it. I tried living on 5 hours for a while – let’s just say it didn’t work out so well. Now it’s between 7.5 and 8. I love the idea of napping in the afternoon but find I end up in a deep sleep.. not so good.

  • Stephen Major

    I think it is funny when people try to categorize sleep times based on studies of a handful of people.

    Fact: According to the Sleep Wellness Institute, more than 100 million Americans suffer some form of sleeping disorder. 

    Fact: During my sleep study, I was diagnosed with moderately severe sleep apnea. During an 8 hour sleep period it was recorded that I only get 2 hours of actual REM sleep which is what you.need to be “rested”

    Fact: I spend 5 out of 7 days of week feeling like a zombie, I have had to learn to live and function even when sleep dep feels like I have been up for days

    The guy who mentioned 40 winks is right, every time my system starts shutting down, if i close my eyes just long enough to drift off and wake before completely falling asleep, i then feel regenerated. Any more and I am toast the rest of the day

  • aayushi_s

    I think I really needed to know all of this in one place. I have been reading a lot about brain fogging and forgetfulness that I have acquired recently. It gets really difficult for me to focus and be attentive for longer periods if I have not slept properly. Sometimes I have to literally push my brain into activity mode.

    Great post!

  • Anthony Somes

    Great review on asleep. I always found under 7 or above 9 hours gave me best alertness when waking. I’ve recently discovered I can enter a REM sleep in less then 5 minutes and would be ideal for me, if schedule permitted, a 4-5 hours awake period with a 30 to 60 sleep cycle throughout the day.

  • Melanie Masters

    Wow, this is a great article. I loved reading the comments almost as much as your research! It really gets you thinking and wanting to know more about specific topics. The train of thought and sharing issues/solutions from this micro-community are invaluable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002505118495 Diana Hodson

    yes, extremely interesting, partic. the bit about naps, have always had difficulty in this,sleeping in mid. of the day,—-i usually get 12 hours/night, & agree this need varies person-to-person, my sleep-times usually depend upon my activities (eg, whilst studying had the common time schedule of up all hours of early am, & not rising til pm )—very few hours of sleep hypothesis, ie, low attention span, could be proven with case of Margaret Thatcher, who whilst PM apparently only had 4 or so /night

  • @carlstevens007

    Sleep consists of several stages. The most famous stage REM sleep. For the iPhone, there are alarm clocks (Sleep Cycle) that we only wake when we are in a certain stage making us less tired wake up.

  • Andrew Deutscher

    Great post. I was happy to see that you referenced Tony Schwartz’s book, The Power of Full Engagement. I am a lead trainer and manage business development for Tony. First, it’s great that I have a boss who knows the research so actually encourages naps. We’ve also been successful with many progressive companies allowing napping during circadian troughs(1-4p). I never thought I could do it. I started meditating when I felt tired through some brief attentional breathing. In short order, I was napping for about 20 minutes. I do it about 3x/ week and it’s been dramatic for me. Keep spreading the good word.

  • Nofal Alaghbari

    Thank for your research, i think also it depends on our food and some other things like way of thinking and handling things these all can effect out need of the hours to sleep, some may find 3 or 4 hours are enough and their bodies and brains function right

  • Sleeplessman

    Hello, I am new to this blog — I have seen a few doctors with my problem and have even asked for an overnight sleep disorder study, but am told that there really is no treatment for my problem and that it’s not a disorder they know of. So, I’d like to explain it to anyone who’s reading and maybe someone might have some tips? Here goes: I only get about 3 to 5 hrs of sleep each night and I don’t know why I wake up between 3:30 and 4 each morning wide awake. I go to bed just after 11 (if I go earlier, I find that I can’t fall asleep till after 11 anyway). Once I hit the pillow, I’m probably asleep within 15 minutes. I don’t remember much, so I probably go to sleep fine, which is what most people (I’ve read) have trouble with, is falling asleep. Okay, but then I wake up at 3:00, or 3:30, or 4:00 or if I’m lucky I sleep till 4:30. It’s been 3 years now, and I’m a 45-yr-old male in excellent physical condition. Early in the morning, I’ve become accustomed to just getting out of bed and doing something productive until I have to go to work at 7:15am. I can usually manage OK at work, though on the drive home I have to fight to stay awake. But, I get home and wouldn’t be able to sleep with all the activity (kids, wife, dog, etc), so the cycle starts all over again. Anyone out there experience the same?

    • Megan M

      Have you tried remaining in the dark or using only candlelight after you wake up at three? You might just be experiencing biphasic sleep, which is TOTALLY natural for humans. In fact, when everyone used to go to sleep at sundown, MOST people had biphasic sleep patterns and would sleep for two or three sleep cycles (three to four and a half hours) and then wake up and be totally alert, and then fall back asleep after one or two hours. In this one to two hour period people would typically do things like reading or writing by candlelight, love making, or talking with whomever else was awake in the room, etc. But since there was no electricity yet, they had no exposure to blue or green light at this time (which had been shown to prevent you from going back to sleep), so if you’re turning the lights on when you wake up on the middle of the night, that may be what’s preventing you from falling back asleep after an hour or so. Just a thought.

      • Sleeplessman

        Thanks for replying Megan, yes I usually just lie there and try to get back to sleep, but it’s a vicious cycle because then I think that oh great, am I going to pay for this tomorrow and that probably adds to anxiety…so sometimes I get out of bed and .. I’ll bet computer screens emit blue or green, so that probably zaps any potential for more sleep. Love making? That would be nice, but my wife is fast asleep! Just lying there is like torture to me. The article above about naps — boy would I like to take one at 2pm at work, but I’d get fired!! Seriously, the guy who wrote that must work for himself or something. Don’t I wish. In my head I’ve even invented a self-driving vehicle that would allow me to nap on the commute home, that would be great too. I know, I’m dreaming here. But, I’ll try to take your advice and read. Fiction is probably the thing to try. Sorry for rambling…Thanks again for reaching out.

        • Megan M

          I can see how worrying about bills and such could keep you from drifting back to sleep. I’ve heard of some people keeping a pad of paper next to their bed, and if they wake up and have any anxieties, they just write them all down on the pad and say they’ll worry about them in the morning. I think that helps with the anxiety because then you don’t have to worry about forgetting about these things and can just let them off your mind. Not sure if that would help you but you could always give it a shot!

          And if just lying there is torture for you, definitely don’t do it, as forcing yourself to be miserable definitely won’t help you get any shut eye! Get up and do something productive, like paperwork or dishes, or something fun like reading. And if candlelight isn’t really your thing, companies like LowBlueLights sell special lightbulbs and glasses which block blue light, so you can still use light in the middle of the night without having it wake you up. I use several of their products and would highly recommend them to anyone. :)

          I’m sorry you’re having trouble sleeping and I hope you can find a solution soon!

        • arif

          In addition to what megan mentions about reducing blue light, you could try flux, simple but great software that removes blue light from your screen/display. Good luck.

        • NLPete

          So what don’t give this a try?
          Before you start driving home or when you get tired on your way home you drive by in a parking lot and take a short nap.
          After that you continue to drive.
          That’s what i am doing since years and it works great.

          BTW it increases your chance for a long live because it decreases your chance to get into an accident.

    • Paul, dedicated CPAPer

      This sounds familiar. Also a healthy male but whatay be happening is sleep apnea. Your brai wakes you up because of a lack of oxygen. Then you can’t get back to sleep because your brain says, “Oh no you don’t. The last time you slept you tried to kill me because you didn’t give me enough oxygen!” That went away with CPAP use.

      I recommend checking out symptoms of sleep apnea. If you have symptoms, which it sounds like you have you need to push for a sleep study.

  • hannahbolton59@gmail.com

    It’s a great site to see. That will help for improvisation of me. Will definitely marked as Bookmark.

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  • David Massey

    This link will tell you how important your optimal sleep hours are ->>

    http://web2.med.upenn.edu/uep/user_documents/dfd16.pdf

    So from that study, and multiple others, it can be inferred that it is about the bigger picture. How many hours you sleep over a span of time will determine how sleep deprived you are. Back to the results of the other study where individuals that slept more than 8 hours lived shorter lifespans: think about their other lifestyle habits – If they had enough time to sleep that much in this day and age, I bet they were sedentary (did not exercise and were not very active). They may have had other harmful lifestyles as well. So if this is the case – then they lived shorter lifespans not because of greater sleep periods, but because of unhealthy choices -> Again, look at the bigger picture here.

    Here are the results of the study though in case you missed it:
    ——————————————————————————————
    Chronic restriction of sleep periods to 4 h or 6 h per night over
    14 consecutive days resulted in significant cumulative, dose-dependent
    deficits in cognitive performance on all tasks. Subjective sleepiness ratings showed an acute response to sleep restriction but only small further
    increases on subsequent days, and did not significantly differentiate the 6
    h and 4 h conditions. Polysomnographic variables and δ power in the nonREM sleep EEG—a putative marker of sleep homeostasis—displayed an
    acute response to sleep restriction with negligible further changes across
    the 14 restricted nights. Comparison of chronic sleep restriction to total
    sleep deprivation showed that the latter resulted in disproportionately
    large waking neurobehavioral and sleep δ power responses relative to
    how much sleep was lost. A statistical model revealed that, regardless of
    the mode of sleep deprivation, lapses in behavioral alertness were nearlinearly related to the cumulative duration of wakefulness in excess of 15.84 h (s.e. 0.73 h).

  • Dr Russell

    there are a lot of medical points selectively not included which over all gives an entirely subjective account, i would recommend this article is not read in isolation.

  • Aren Wolf

    I like the post, and I found the information to be extremely helpful. I would offer one tip that I find successful in terms of disengaging. If you take a hot shower before bed, it raises the the body’s temperature and then the temperature natural begins to come down. This process tends to make the body think it’s starting to rest. I read into the theory few years back somewhere, and I have found it to be extremely successful. Well, again I enjoyed the information, so thank you.

  • John

    My brain is so complex that I need 12 hour of sleep.

    • timefropper

      from the comment we can see the complexity of ur brain :)

  • Lanstonpeng

    How can I find the detail of this research like the testing crowd

  • http://www.facebook.com/reillyse Sean Reilly

    I used to nap a lot and found it very refreshing especially when I knew I was going to have to do something mentally taxing e.g. play a 3 hour session of bridge. But since starting the Paleo diet and vastly reducing my carb intake I just don’t feel the need to nap at all

  • Craig

    Time to nap my way to success. Thanks to http://www.waurb.com for bringing me here!

  • Occasional Insomniac

    They need to specify that sleeping more than 8 hours has not been found to be the CAUSE of shorter lifespan, only a correlation. Chicken or the egg? Do those who sleep longer do so because they have health issues, and that’s why they have shorter life spans? Do they suffer from a kind of disorder which makes it hard to achieve restorative sleep in under 8 hours? Or is it the sleep itself.

    In my case, I need 8 1/2 hours to feel at my best. What they label as “best”, 7 1/2, leaves me dragging a little. My grandmother, on the other hand, only needs 4 hours. Perhaps there are individual differences that should be taken into consideration.

  • B. Skeptical

    Correlation does not imply causation. Those who need more sleep should not change to 6 1/2 hours just because this study finds a correlation. I’ll tell you, when I only get 6 hours of sleep, I’m neither productive nor happy. I feel sleep deprived.

    This should not be taken as a lifestyle guide by those who need more than 7 1/2 hours to feel good. How much sleep an individual needs to feel good will vary from person to person depending on many factors. Again, correlation does not imply causation.

    Perhaps a better way to look at the results of that study is that many people who are in good physical and psychological health report only needing x number of hours of sleep. NOT that less than 7 1/2 hours of sleep causes happiness, productivity, and longevity in all people.

  • Prefer Being Anon

    It’s OK, but some info in the post & comments are misleading. The number of hours of sleep that each human being needs varies from 0 – 12+ hours, and no one should force themselves to sleep for 7 hours just because some stat result showed that people who sleep for ~7 hours live the longest. Our sleep patterns depends on our health condition, environment, and most importantly our genes. It could be people with the long-lived genes usually sleep for ~7 hours.

    • Loron

      I do agree that too many factors have a direct influence on the number of hours each person requires.

      The statistics aren’t sufficiently segmented for you to be able to figure out which category you fall into.

      I also agree with Dave Larson’s comment about sleep cycles and the benefit they can deliver. I mean, there is some truth behind it. At the end of each cycle your body is more alert and susceptible to outside stimuli, making it easier to wake up as opposed to waking up from the “deep sleep” stage where your body is pretty much paralyzed, hence the “wake up” experience is far less cumbersome in the first case.

      Have a look at http://sleep-calculator.com and play around with the go to bed, wake up times and select a day or two to respect that schedule, and see how you feel. It’s a trial and error thing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ki.miya.758 KI Miya

    thanks for writing this..

  • http://www.facebook.com/cawol.abella Cawolyne Sales

    I won’t be able to sleep if I start thinking that I need to get some sleep

    • wenner dog

      cawolyne u dont make any sence

  • http://www.facebook.com/rish.pawar1 Rishi Pawar

    i sleep everyday 5hours so its bad for my health?????

  • 1barbarashannon

    Nonsense that the gainfully employed can’t nap. I am a management consultant working 50-60 hours a week. I take a daily nap around 2:30 in my car. I drive to a parking lot where no one I know will see me. Put the seat back. Pass out for 20 minutes and go back to work feeling great. Totally doable and adds tremendously to afternoon productivity.

  • Stacy

    My brain is complex. I used to sleep 15 hours a day before my SSRI medication. It’s down to 8 or 9 hours. If I get less than that, even though I’m on meds now, it turns on the ‘crazy b!tc#’ switch. For some reason, my ability to remain calm and think clearly is completely dependent on getting enough sleep. (I’m a woman with borderline personality disorder, i.e., emotional disregulation disorder)

  • Dreamwalker

    There is something very wrong in Daniel Kripke’s research and similar researches. Kripke found that “people who sleep between 6.5 hr. and 7.5 hr. a night, live the longest, are happier and most productive”. People usually conclude that ‘Oh, so If I sleep between 6.5 hr. and 7.5hr. I will live longer and be more happy. I think it’s the other way around. It might be that those people who have good healthy body, live in non-stressful environment and have a happy life NEED only 6 hours (because either their metabolism and regeneration processes work very well or they don’t get a lot of physical and mental damage during the day which needs to be regenerated).
    I trust my empiric experience more than distant researches. And I noticed that I myself needed a whole different sleep amount in various jobs/environments. If the job was easy and people nice, I needed less sleep. If the job was difficult (stress), I had a lot of existential issues (stress) and people were hard to get along with (stress) I needed over 9 hours to regenerate my brain and being prepared for the day.
    Conclussion: Every body is different, everybody’s circumstances are different so please never ever apply general rules about sleep.

    • William Steele

      But if you start making yourself sleep in that sleep range assuming you generally sleep much more or less you might be inclined to make changes in your life to accommodate that sleep cycle that also benefit you health wise. All this stuff goes hand in hand.

  • Jessica

    You might want to look into how your nutrition throughout the day, especially breakfast, affect your dip in attention and productivity at 3pm. It usually has to do with skipping breakfast or having high carbohydrate meals.

  • A lawyer

    Interesting, but the effort it took to distill meaning out of this grammatical train wreck wasn’t worth it. How does this person make a living as a WRITER?

    “Our lifetime.” Plural followed by singluar.
    “Over-talked” (if that is a word at all) has a hyphen. “Hearsay” does not.
    “Everyone I’ve asked the question, how much sleep do we need has an answer to the question.” Atrocious.
    “Did it ever happen to you that someone who got only 4 hours of sleep a night . . . ” Incomprehensible.
    “With one big difference to you.” 1 is different FROM 2. Not different THAN, or different TO.
    “Even worse so, sleep-deprived people don’t notice their decrease in performance.” Ah. Perhaps this is the culprit.
    “So now, onto the good stuff . . . ” In this context, “on to” is two words. No hyphen.
    “One of my favorite writers . . . puts an equal focus on napping for many years.” Huh? Focus equal to what? And wait. His naps last for many years?

    This kid doesn’t need naps. He needs an EDITOR.

  • Pafu Inlu

    This is interesting. I’ve been sleeping 5 out of 7 days a week for about a year and a half. I’m an entrepreneur, so on the nights where I stay up, I work on one of my projects.

    I couldn’t sleep any more nights per week. I just don’t want to. I would just rather not. I notice that on those specific days after I stay up all night working, I do have a different mentality than on the days where I have not stayed up all night. Some might say you lose focus (this article), but I think that differences should be expected, not shot down based on ability to focus. After all, they are two different states of consciousness.

    I think if you are comparing how you are when you have a full nights sleep vs. having no sleep, you are not comparing apples to oranges. There are benefits to both wakeful states, and when you say that someone with less sleep is not able to focus as much as someone who is, you are only comparing (and seemingly favoring) one aspect of consciousness between these two mind states.

    I love that I no longer need 7 days of sleep. I have gained about an extra month every year when you consider that most people sleep 1/3 of their days away every day. Loss of focus on my “extra days” is minimal, and I actually experience a boost of creativity.

    To each their own though. I still enjoyed this read. Thank you.

  • Adriano Mitre

    Hi, Leo Widrich.
    “8 hours per night sleep” is not a “myth”, it is just taking the mode (“most”) as if the whole distribution (“all”) resided in a single value. There is actual empirical evidence regarding the 8 hours a night sleep for most people for most of his adult life. Which is not the same as saying all people need 8 hours of sleep a night for one’s entire life.
    If you are feeling courageous, you should really consider reading the book “The Promise of Sleep: A Pioneer in Sleep Medicine Explores the Vital Connection Between Health, Happiness, and a Good Night’s Sleep” [1]. It is written by doctor William C. Dement, who participated in the discovery of REM sleep and its association with dreaming. The book is thick but pleasant to read and very comprehensive.
    If not, at the very least I would recommend that you check the page How Much Sleep Do We Really Need? from the National Sleep Foundation [2].
    Last but not least, Daniel Kripke probably just deduced a wrong conclusion from the facts: there should be some common cause (CC) to reduced sleep needs (RS), living longer, being happier and more productive (LL, BH, MP). He wrongly concluded RS -> LL, BH, MP when the correct theory would probably be CC -> RS, LL, BH, MP.
    Best regards,
    Adriano Mitre

    [1] http://www.amazon.com/The-Promise-Sleep-Connection-Happiness/dp/0440509017
    [2] http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need

  • Philippe Raynaud

    I have always heard that it is better to be early bird as hours before midnight are better to recover. I believe that it is a myth and that in fact the first hours of sleep (whenever they are) are the most resting ones. That said, I know that I definitely prefer to sleep early in the evenings and wake up early in the mornings. And I usually don’t put an alarm to wake up so most of the time, I wake up after a cycle (unless there is some noise that wakes me up before, which is rare). For those who can afford to do this I would suggest to do the same (unless they only wake up after 12 hours of sleep).

    I think you are also right that planning ahead what would be the first thing to wake up help get up of the bed. I try to do that so the first thing I think about in the morning is one exciting task I am going to achieve during that day. That said, about “Joel hits the gym exactly 5 minutes after wake-up time.” I did that too in the past but one doctor told me that it is not good because just after waking up you have to warm your body up (very) slowly.

    Also, I found a way to help me fall asleep in the evening: I remember a nice event like being on the beach of reunion Island before sunset – I don’t think about anything else and then I fall asleep very easily.

    Alright, I have to find a place in the office to get a daily nap :)

  • Alireza Manshouri

    There are times when I get up early and I can’t go back to sleep afterwards. And times when I get up early and I’m fresh but if I go on sleeping it makes me sleepy the rest of the day. Is it a good idea to sleep a fixed amount of time or I should get out of bed right away?

  • stupid

    so stupid

  • Jano

    Great article! thanks

  • Jessica Johnson

    That is good to know. I have always valued the importance of sleep. My advice to those having problems with sleeping is to try to undertake a mindfulness meditation routine, and some daily exercise also.

  • Joe Schmoe

    Wait a load of bullocks.

  • Ram Samudrala

    I think the most important thing is to not sleep to an alarm. I sleep when I want and wake up when I want and have been extremely healthy (except for the 3-5 years in my life when I consumed alcohol) and still am at age 43 in terms of things like blood pressure and heart disease or liver problems and overally am extremely happy. I sleep only 4 hours a day on most days and since I was a child I’ve needed little sleep (but there are days when I sleep 18 hours also, if I stay up 3-4 nights in a row). My daughter doesn’t sleep as much either. I do extremely focussed research and can do so even after staying up for many days in a row. Many of my research students are unable to do this. As I’ve gotten older I’ve found it harder to go multiple nights without sleep but a single night without sleep is still not a problem for me. So I think the above generalisation about lack of focus isn’t true (or perhaps I just don’t lose focus easily period, once I fix my mind on something unless I allow myself to be interrupted, I stick with it). It does vary for each individual but not having a set schedule is the most important thing for me.

  • Name

    I believe in power of “Power Nap” Specially when you are tired of driving give it 20 mins, and GOOOD Morning.

  • CrankyFranky

    from my research I’ve decided my optimum sleep is 7.5 hours – so I stay up and get up accordingly – most nights to bed by 1130pm and get up at 7am

    I’ve also found I seem to have a 48 hour delay factor – if I miss sleep one night I feel fine all next day but crash the second day – don’t know how that relates to hormone cycles or what

  • Janice

    Ironically my husband gets an additional 3 hours of sleep than I. I can’t sleep more than 6 hours due to OCD and he sleeps 9-10 hours and is still tired. He’s a big baby!

  • Ij

    I’m a high school student… I need to get up at about 5:30 every day. This means I have to get to bed at about 9:30. I don’t know anyone who gets to bed before 10 at all… Personally, I get to bed at about midnight every night. So with my 5.5 hours of sleep every day, I actually function just fine… Once every few months I may fall asleep in my first hour class (8:10-9:22), but that’s it. Some people need a different amount of sleep than others.

  • coccoinomane

    Nice article thanks! I always had problems in keeping a satisfactory sleeping routine. Lately I found that performing a so-called “mindful meditation” for 10-20 minutes works as well as a power nap. This is no spiritual stuff, does not involve Eastern deities and, very roughly, it consists of phasing-out sitting on a chair, trying not to focus on the future or on the past. For a simple description, I suggest reading a tiny book called “Quiet your mind” by Matthew Johnstone.

  • Sean

    Ok. First of all i understand you like to profess your opinions (which is fine). But dressing it up as having a scientific backbone just to make it sound genuine is not. Show me the actual scientific (journal or academic sources not just any website) research and data on most of the stuff you say here and I’ll bite, otherwise i call bullshit.