How Much Sleep Do You Need?

woman sleeping

There has been a lot of controversy when it comes to the amount of sleep that you need every night. Many famous people have proclaimed that sleep is a waste of time. From Napoleon to Thomas Edison to Margaret Thatcher and even Bill Clinton have stated that they did not need much sleep and look what they accomplished. However, despite what they have said the need for sleep is very important and your body needs the appropriate amount of rest so that you can properly think and take the right set of actions. Every year, thousands of people are injured and some are killed when they fall asleep behind the wheel of their vehicle because they have not gotten enough sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a typical American will get 6.9 hours of sleep each night. On the surface that seems like a good number because it is very close to the 7 to 7 ½ hours that many sleep experts say that is needed. Unfortunately, the average is not quite good enough for most people.

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

Where there is no exact number that applies to everyone, most people need from 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Anything less and it will start to inhibit your ability to perform during the day. Getting below 7 hours on a regular basis will result in a declining of your abilities which include focus, concentration, alertness, and reaction. Conversely, getting at least 8 hours of sleep results in very little to no degradation. Studies have shown the cumulative effect of not getting enough sleep which continually adds up for every night that you do not get the sleep that your body needs. This means that your body needs to make up for the time that is missed when sleeping. Otherwise, it becomes nearly impossible to fully regain your ability to concentrate and stay alert. In addition, the less sleep that is enjoyed on average means a greater degradation of your abilities.

Effects of Sleep Deprivation

While few people would go to work intoxicated, the same people would go to their job even with their abilities curtailed by the lack of sleep. There are a number of negative effects that sleep deprivation brings to the mind and body. Tiredness: The most obvious effect of not getting enough sleep at night. However, it extends beyond your immediate feeling of being tired as it negative affects your entire body. Long Term Health Risks: People who are sleep deprived over the long term have a higher risk for heart disease, dementia, stroke, and cancer. Lack Alertness: These people have far more issues with concentration and performing tasks that require quick thinking. This can be especially dangerous when driving and it affects the memory as well. It has been estimated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that driver fatigue causes roughly 56,000 accidents on the roads each year and up to 1,500 deaths. All it takes is a half-second of delay in the cognitive function and an accident may occur. What is worse is that many people who suffer from the effects of chronic sleep deprivation often believe that their bodies actually adjust to the new conditions. The truth is that they are simply no longer aware of how they are being affected by the lack of sleep. Even when it is obvious to everyone else, the person who needs the sleep is often unaware of the seriousness of their condition until they awaken from their desk or worse fall asleep behind the wheel of their vehicle. Many people try to use caffeine or other stimulants to help keep them away, but that comes at a price which will eventually needs to be paid or even worse effects will start to occur. Another concern is that some people do not deteriorate as fast as others which can create an even more dangerous situation. For those who take longer to feel the effects of sleep deprivation, they may not realize how serious the situation may be until it is too late. This generally means that they will feel fine for the most part, but are more susceptible to falling asleep behind the wheel, operating heavy machinery, or at a time when they are likely to put the health and safety of others at risk.

Short Sleepers

There are certain people who can actually get by with as little as four to five hours of sleep each night and not suffer any ill effects. This is because they have a gene known as ABCC9 which helps them to need less sleep that most other people. Although many think that they have this particular gene, it only occurs in less than 5 out of every 100 people on average. This small percentage of short sleepers act as the exception to the rule and provide the criteria necessary to demonstrate that getting enough sleep at night is very important. In fact, even short sleepers must get their four to five hours each night or they will suffer the same effects of deprivation as everyone else.

How to Pay Off Your Sleep Debt


For those who may find themselves sleeping considerably longer on the weekends than during the week, the need to pay off the debt in sleep is apparent. The good news is that those who do sleep longer on the weekends are at least making up in part what they have lost during the week. Unfortunately for most of them it will not be enough to fully make up the difference. In order to pay off your sleep debt, it needs to start by going to bed a little earlier at night. Most experts say that you should start by going to bed at least ten to fifteen minutes earlier each night in order to fall asleep faster and get the rest that your body needs. However, it is not just the length of sleep, but the overall quality of sleep as well. You will need to create an environment in the bedroom that minimizes all sources of light, removes the distractions, and lets you get a full night’s sleep. By doing those things, you can pay off your sleep debt over time and get what you need to feel refreshed each and every day.

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