Do We Really Need 8 Hours Sleep?
3 min read
Last Modified 3 March 2021 First Added 28 October 2014
Do you understand the importance of getting a good night’s sleep, every night? It’s refreshing, healthy and generally beneficial to our lifestyles. And besides, there’s rarely a more enjoyable experience than settling down snugly in a comfortable bed and drifting off to a nice, restful sleep.
But do we actually need 8 hours sleep? That’s the number that most people quote and that regularly springs to mind when discussing sleep length. But, is eight hours sleep enough, or is it too much, or too little?
Well, let’s kick off the debate with the view of Professor Jim Horne, director of Loughborough University’s Sleep Research Centre, who quite firmly states that we don’t need 8 hours at all. In fact, he says: ‘It’s nonsense. It’s like saying that everybody should have size eight shoes, or be five foot eight inches tall.’
The professor goes on to say that the average sleep length is about 7 hours but that lots of people sleep for longer or for less than this. It’s really all down to genes, physical make up and what your body becomes accustomed to. So, it’s important that you listen to your body, above what you hear about how long you should sleep!
What Professor Horne seems to be saying is that you should decide for yourself the length of sleep you need. If, for instance, you regularly sleep for 8 hours a night but still find yourself nodding off at work, you’re not getting enough sleep. On the other hand, if you sleep for just 6 hours, but never feel tired or listless in the daytime, then you’re obviously getting enough sleep. Different bodies, different sleep patterns. Logical really.
Certain scientific experiments have concluded that we never actually sleep 8 hours in a row anyway, because we usually wake up in the middle of the night then go back to sleep again. So, don’t worry too much about getting an exact amount of sleep every night. Quality is more important than quantity, too, so it’s more beneficial to have a shorter, better sleep than a longer, poor quality one.
Related: 5 Top Tips To Improve Your Sleep
What it all comes down to is that there is no ‘magic number’ for the amount of hours you need to sleep. Whilst you personally may be at your absolute best sleeping 7 hours a night, someone else may clearly need 9 hours to have a happy, productive life.
To work out roughly how many hours rest your body needs, see how you respond to different amounts of sleep. Pay careful attention to your mood and energy levels after, for instance a six hour sleep, and then compare them to how you feel after a nine-hour sleep. When you get the balance right, make that your sleep pattern and stick to it whenever you can.
What’s your ideal amount of sleep? Have your say about how many hours sleep you get in the comments.