314-909-1666
Call Today!
  • RSS Feed
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google

Is Eight Hours of Sleep Too Much Sleep?

October 28, 2011

When it comes to getting enough sleep, the conventional wisdom is eight hours. Everyone should get eight hours. Young, old, sick, healthy. You should sleep eight hours.

The trouble is there is no evidence that that is true.

In fact, studies show that people who sleep between 6.5 hours to 7.5 hours a night live the longest. Nobody knows why, they just know that there seems to be that those who live the longest tend to sleep on average about 7 hours a night.

What’s interesting is not so much that those who sleep less than 6.5 hours do not live longer (we naturally can assume that less sleep, especially at the sub 6 hour level), can damage your health.

What’s interesting is that sleeping 8 hours or more can have the same negative impact on your health and life. In fact, some scientists speculate that sleeping eight hours a night can be a little worse than sleeping five hours.

I bring this up because I spoke last week about how much you should sleep when recovering from a marathon. A marathon is one of the most physically taxing things you can do to your body. It’s natural to assume that you should sleep eight to nine hours to recover properly.

But is that truly the case?

For example, runners after a marathon may have trouble falling asleep that night. That’s fine. They are wound up. If that’s the case, and that’s you, try to sleep as long as you can. If you toss and turn for fifteen minutes, get up and try to read a book or eat a small snack to help you fall back asleep.

Sometimes sleeplessness is caused by hunger. Eating a sandwich with lean meats like turkey or chicken is a good idea. Foods with carbohydrates tend to help you fall asleep, while proteins will help you stay asleep.

One thing about sleeplessness to keep in mind is that anxiety usually plays a role in insomnia. Some scientists suggest that the 8 hour rule may be keeping people up. (Is that you?)

Should You Obey the 8 Hour Rule?

Say you sleep for six hours but stay in bed because you want to obey the 8 hour rule. Well, you are probably going to be tossing and turning for two hours, which can lead into a cycle of insomnia that deepens into less and less sleep each night.

This can lead to injury from a body that is not repairing it self, not to mention the problems that lack of sleep can cause for people who have to drive a vehicle or be mentally alert.

My advice to you is to sleep until you are fully rested. If that means only six hours, then so be it. If you find you are sleeping longer than that, try setting an alarm to get your up at 7.5 hours.

This may be hard since you may be used to sleeping a lot, but see if you can’t get up at this time and take a nap around the afternoon time. Naps shouldn’t be any longer than 30 minutes, and should be in an environment that is dark and comfortable for the best impact. Any longer than 30 minutes and you may have trouble falling asleep at night.

This nap may help you transition to sleeping less than 8 hours, but in the end, what’s important is your overall health. If you are in good physical health, you may need that eight hours. It really depends and if you have any questions, you should ask your doctor.

Dr. Rick Lehman is a distinguished orthopedic surgeon in St. Louis, Missouri and an articular cartilage reconstruction pioneer. He owns U. S. Sports Medicine in Kirkwood, MO, and LehmanHealth. Learn more about Dr. Rick.

 

Previous post:

Next post: