It’s often said that eight hours of sleep a night is best for your health. But is that definitely the best way to get healthy rest? Not necessarily, says a sleep expert.
In an interview with Quartz, Dr Daniel Gartenberg from Penn State University discussed some of the misconceptions for sleep, including why we should nap, and why sleep should be regarded as a new worker’s right. But he also set the record straight on how much sleep we should be getting a night – 8.5 hours, rather than 8 hours.
“A professor I collaborate with at Penn State named Orfeu Buxton says that 8.5 hours of sleep is the new eight hours,” he said. “In order to get a healthy eight hours of sleep, which is the amount that many people need, you need to be in bed for 8.5 hours.
“The standard in the literature is that healthy sleepers spend more than 90 percent of the time in bed asleep, so if you’re in bed for eight hours, a healthy sleeper might actually sleep for only about 7.2 hours.”
He noted that even if trying to go to sleep early, people might not get the amount of rest they really need, because they spend a lot of time trying to go to sleep. Screens from smartphones and other devices can also result in an interrupted night’s sleep (we know, we know, people are always saying that but if you want to know why, read this).
According to the NHS in the UK, regular poor sleep can put you at risk of heart disease and diabetes, while also shortening your life expectancy. They note that while most people need 8 hours, some will need more and some need less. If you struggle with poor sleep, some of these tips may help.
“As a general rule, if you wake up tired and spend the day longing for a chance to have a nap, it’s likely that you’re not getting enough sleep,” they said.
A study last month, meanwhile, suggested that if you do miss out on sleep during the week, then having a lie-in on the weekend could prevent your life expectancy decreasing.
Previous results had shown that sleeping for less than five hours a night for seven days a week had a 52 percent higher mortality rate than those getting six or seven hours. But in their study, they found that then sleeping for eight hours or more on the weekend meant there was no increase.