It’s a myth that everyone needs 8 hours. Sleep need is unique to each person and can change with hormones or life circumstances. Here’s what scientists know:
- Most adults function best somewhere between 7-9 hours a night.
- A small percentage of people, known as short sleepers, only need 4-6 hours of sleep.
- Similarly, some people, known as long sleepers, naturally need 9-10 hours.
- As people age, sleep needs may change, but more frequently, sleep is just harder to get. Like the rest of the aging process, some change is perfectly normal, but these changes are also a sign that extra self-care is needed.
- Intense physical activity increases sleep need because sleep helps your body repair. ⛹️ Professional athletes need more than the average person, up to 10 hours a night. Changes in mental activity will also affect sleep need.
How to figure out your sleep need
Your sleep need is unique, so the best way to find your magic number is to listen to your body. Take some time to reflect on your experiences: when you are healthy, how much does it take to feel fully rested? How much did you sleep when:
✅ Your mood is generally good: not negatively impacted by sleepiness.
✅ You find it easy to get out of bed. Keep in mind some slow start in the morning is perfectly normal, but waking up shouldn’t feel like a big struggle.
✅ You don’t feel sleep-deprived. You feel okay during the day and don’t have trouble concentrating.
Can you think of a time when you did feel sleep-deprived? How much sleep were you getting when:
❌ You struggle to get out of bed.
❌ You would quickly nod off during the day, perhaps while reading or watching TV, or even driving.
❌ You find it difficult to concentrate during the day.
❌ You frequently feel irritable.
Keep in mind that it’s normal to experience sleep deprivation occasionally. Sometimes life gets in the way! Your body can bounce back from a poor night here or there.
The National Sleep Foundation. (2020) How Much Sleep Do You Really Need. Retrieved March 21, 2021
Ohayon MM, Carskadon MA, Guilleminault C, Vitiello MV. Meta-analysis of quantitative sleep parameters from childhood to old age in healthy individuals: developing normative sleep values across the human lifespan. Sleep. 2004 Nov 1; 27(7): 1255-73.
Saper CB, Cano G, Scammell TE. 2005. Homeostatic, circadian, and emotional regulation of sleep. Journal of Comparative Neurology. 493:92-98.