In today’s hectic world, trying to fit in eight hours of sleep a day is a big bummer. It’s not so much that people dislike sleep as a general rule. It’s just competing with too many things we need to do, or prefer to do instead. And that’s becoming a bigger problem now in our ultra-fast paced society.
So do we really need a lot of sleep and is it important to try and get at least 8 hours a night? Daniel Kripke, co-director of research at the Scripps Clinic Sleep Center in La Jolla, California, puts it to us straight: you don’t live as long if you don’t get enough sleep. Okay, that’s pretty plain. But how much is enough?According to a 2002 sleep study conducted among 1 million adults, those who slept between 6.5 and 7.5 hours per night lived longer than those who slept less that 6.5 hours a night. But surprisingly, they also discovered that people who slept more than 8 hours a night tended to live slightly shorter lives as well. Even more surprising was that sleeping 5 hours a night had less impact on mortality than sleeping over 8 hours per night!
“I think we can speculate [about why people who sleep from 6.5 to 7.5 hr. live longer], but we have to admit that we don’t really understand the reasons”, said Kripke in a 2008 interview with Time Magazine. So sleep may in fact be a bit overrated. The real benefit is the quality of uninterrupted sleep during the night.
Again, according to Dr. Kripke: “Oddly enough, a lot of the problem [of insomnia] is lying in bed awake, worrying about it.” So if you’re not sleepy, maybe the best remedy is to get out of bed and do something that relaxes you and then try again later, rather than tossing and turning, fretting about being awake.
In any case, studies show that we need regular sleep to repair our bodies and refresh our minds. But too much of anything isn’t a good thing – as usual.