Consumer Tips \ Healthy Skeptic

Do You Really Need 8 Hours of Sleep?

"I need 7-8 hours of sleep or I'm cranky tired, um, and not motivated the next day."

"I'd say people need around 8 hours of sleep but when you're younger you're still able to just function with less."

If you think about it, sleep is a lot like weight. There's an ideal that we're all supposed to meet, but few of us do.

So is getting less than the recommended 8 hours a night really bad for us? Well, a lot less is a problem. But if you're getting a little less, there's probably no need to lose sleep over it.

Routinely sleeping less than 7 hours a night leads to reduced attention, conentration and memory in most people, according to research.

One result is an increased risk of car accidents.

But individuals vary widely in how they're affected, and how much.

Getting 6 hours of sleep, for example, can have a severe impact on some people, and barely make a difference in others.

Though you may think you fall in the second category, it can be hard to judge accurately for yourself.

Studies among sleep-deprived people show that they often overestimate their alertness on tasks like driving.

As for the effects on our health, studies overall have linked less than 6 hours a night with an increased risk of heart disease, strokes, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and premature death.

Interestingly, getting lots of zz's, meaning 9 or more hours every night , is also associated with these risks.

But it's unclear whether sleeping that much is the cause of health problems, or just the result.

There's no evidence that sleeping in on weekends is harmful, and it may help make up for lost sleep during the week. But not entirely.

Your best bet is to consistently get 7 or 8 hours a night. If your reaction is "dream on," try turning off your tv or computer a bit earlier every evening. It could help make that dream a reality.

This entry last modified on: March 4, 2014 6:02 PM

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About the Video

Is it really harmful to get less than the recommended eight hours of sleep a night? Our Healthy Skeptic investigates


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