Sleep: Why 71/2 Hours is Better Than 8 But Not As Good as 9

How did you sleep last night?


I’m asking because it seems to be a popular topic right now and lately I’m not sleeping so well.

Until a few years ago, other than a bout of insomnia in 2003 that lasted for about 3 months I slept fine. But again I’m in a season where I’m not sleeping much more than 4-5 hours a night…that might work for some people but not for me.

When I was a teenager I worked with a guy who bragged he only needed 2 or 3 hours of sleep a night. He argued that while most people slept through the night he had more time to do other things. I wasn’t sure what those things were exactly, I never asked.

Growing up I was taught that getting 8 hours of sleep a night was imperative to good health. I don’t know where that number came from or if it was ever scientifically proven, but it seemed to be the gold standard for as long as I can remember.

But what if 8 hours of sleep is not ideal? What if you you should get less sleep not more?

I’m not suggesting that we can live on 2 to 3 hours a night. That guy I worked with eventually had to stop working altogether while he was hospitalized. He was gone for months.

The national sleep foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep for adults 18-64. But maybe it’s more specific than that.

Sleep Cycles

While you sleep, we go through cycles of sleep states. The first state in a sleep cycle is light sleep, followed by deep sleep and a dream state referred to as REM-sleep. A full sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes and is normally repeated several times each night.

If we typically sleep in 90 minute cycles throughout the night, and if we wake most refreshed at the end of a sleep cycle, then we should schedule our sleep to coincide with our sleep cycles. In other words, 6 hours equals 4 sleep cycles. 71/2 hours equals 5 sleep cycles and 9 hours equal 6.

If this is accurate, then waking up after 8 hours means we will be doing so in the middle of a sleep cycle, and might explain why we wake up groggy rather than refreshed.

For Example

Let’s say you go to bed at 10pm tonight, and fall asleep in about 15 minutes. After 5 cycles of sleep (71/2 hours) you should wake up @ 6am; give or take a few minutes. If you wake up or set your alarm for 6:30 or 7:00am you might be waking up mid sleep cycle and possibly sabotaging your best chance for a productive day.

This is also why using the snooze button typically backfires. You might think you’ll benefit from an extra 10 minutes of shut eye, but if you actually fall asleep only to wake up 10 minutes later, well, you get the picture. (which might be why you push the snooze button a second or third time)

There are numerous ways to improve your sleep such as…

  • choosing a consistent bedtime and wake up time,
  • keeping your room dark,
  • avoiding screen light (laptops, smartphones etc) an hour before bed,
  • getting regular exercise,
  • getting a better quality mattress and pillow

But ensuring you are sleeping the proper amount of time might be just what the doctor ordered. So remember; follow your sleep patterns. Getting 8 hours sleep a night might not be in your best interest.

71/2 of sleep is better than 8 but not as good as 9

What do you think?

How well do you sleep? What habits do you practice that help you?

What tips can you offer those struggling with sleep.


Feel like there is more to your life than what you are experiencing today? Not sure where to start? Life coaching can help. Contact me to arrange an initial free 30 minute Discovery Call. Let’s talk.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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