We all know the magic number when it comes to sleep. Getting enough rest is paramount to our health, which is why eight hours of sleep is most commonly recommended for the average adult. It’s so deeply ingrained in us that some people worry about not getting enough sleep just because they were unable to sleep for eight hours straight. But how many of us are even capable of getting that much shut-eye in one go, assuming we had the time? Most people do tend to wake up in the middle of the night, without any sort of provocation. Is this cause for concern? Or is the need to lock in eight full hours of sleep purely a myth?
When An Idea Itself Leads To Sleep Deprivation
The verdict is out: there is no need for us to get eight whole hours worth of uninterrupted sleep. In fact, the idea itself is way more trouble than it’s worth. Experts believe that waking up in the middle of the night is perfectly normal. Most of us naturally follow a bimodal sleep pattern that features two separate blocks of sleep, rather than one consolidated block. In other words, waking up after a few hours isn’t completely out of the ordinary and is unlikely to be harmful.
Instead, believing that an interruption to our sleep could be a detriment to us may, ironically, be far more damaging. Too many of us get way too anxious about waking up in the middle of the night, thinking that we’re not getting the rest we need. But it’s the anxiety itself that may cause us to suffer from sleep deprivation, instead of leading to what should have been a mere short interlude to our slumber. So, the next time you wake up after a few hours, keep calm and just go back to sleep. Nothing to see here — move along.
But Sleep Deprivation Is Definitely No Myth
Although a complete eight-hour block of sleep itself is unnecessary, sleep deprivation itself is definitely no myth. Research indicates that most people who regularly sleep for under six hours every night tend to suffer from both poor physical and mental health. Often, this leads to an overall decrease in the ability to perform well at work or school since sleep deprivation can greatly reduce our motivation, focus, forgetfulness, and general well-being. Poor sleep habits can also affect our self-confidence by causing sallow skin, pimple outbreaks, and even acne scarring. In fact, as one of the major causes of automobile accidents, a lack of sleep may even lead to serious injury.
Experts estimate that only a very small percentage of the whole population can truly function at their best with only a few hours of sleep. Everyone else claiming that they feel perfectly fine are most likely just sleep-deprived. The problem is that they won’t even realise it until a doctor tells them that they’re suffering from a whole host of health conditions, ranging from high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes. That’s why it’s best to aim for eight hours of sleep, even if it does seem like a mere pipe dream. If you find that you often have difficulty falling asleep in the first place, try rethinking your pre-sleep routine. For instance, do avoid consuming anything that’s sure to make you feel alert at a time when you should be sleeping. There’s actually a good reason why some people believe that we shouldn’t be eating anything after a certain time. It’s all too easy to forget that certain foods, including anything spicy, can keep you awake at night.
It All Depends On The Individual
Although we may not necessarily need eight hours worth of uninterrupted sleep, the keyword here is ‘uninterrupted’. Most of us do need about eight hours of sleep, even if it’s divided into two blocks. The average adult typically requires about four to five complete sleep cycles to feel well and truly rested. Each sleep cycle, lasting about 90 minutes, refers to the different cyclical phases of non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) and rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep. Since most of us need to go through at least four of them, it explains why eight hours of sleep is often recommended.
Even then, it’s really mostly a guideline. Every individual is built differently; your body type and age can greatly influence how much sleep you need. That’s precisely why some of us won’t even need that much sleep for a night’s worth of sufficient rest. When in doubt, the best course of action you should take is to listen to your body. Pay close attention to how productive you are throughout the course of the day as well as your overall physical health. If you feel fatigued while running on six hours of sleep, try changing the status quo and sleep for seven hours.