The required amount of sleep per night is not a standard, it varies from person to person. Some people function well and live healthy lifestyles on 5 hours of sleep a night. Professionals recommend 7 hours to maximize health, however it is not set in stone for everyone. I find that I need between 7 and 8 hours to be alert and well rested.
The amount of sleep required to feel refreshed seems to vary by individual, and it’s also important to take both quantity and quality of sleep into account. Too little sleep can impair your ability to function during the day, but it is also possible to get too much sleep and you can be left feeling sluggish.
A study from 2002 showed that people who slept 6-7 hours a night had a lower death rate, compared to people who got more (8+ hours) or less (<4 hours). However, the reasons for the higher death rate associated with more sleep are unknown. A more recent study produced similar results.
Based on these articles, 7 hours seems to be the new standard. Once again though, this can vary by individual and only you can determine what feels best for you. The second study that I cited stresses that consistency is important too, which means that regularly getting 7 hours of sleep is better than getting 5 hours on some nights and 9 hours on others.
Image is taken from this page, which has more information about how sleep works if you want to learn about that.
The amount of sleep you need to be healthy varies and is unique for each person. That being said, seven to eight hours is on average sufficient for adults to be well-rested. Teenagers, infants, and pregnant woman usually need more hours each night. It is important to discover how much sleep your body personally needs a night in order to make sure you are healthy; not receiving enough sleep can have detrimental effects. Lack of sleep can lead to depression, memory problems, a compromised immune system, and a higher than normal perception of pain. It can cause reaction time to be slower, impair judgements, and overall be very unhealthy. That is why while it may not be important to get 8 hours of sleep per say, it is very important to get the proper amount your body needs.
The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss actually has a chapter that explains how a person can perform better on two hours of sleep, than a person on eight hours of sleep. I have the book and have yet to read the chapter, but for those interested you may want to look into it.
According to the sleep foundation, how much sleep you need may also have a lot to do with your age. See the picture below.
The Primal Teen (a book) talks about how the adolescent brain usually needs more sleep than the adult brain and that it oftentimes does not begin to go into rest mode until much later. That may be why teens tend to stay up late and wake up late.
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