Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I was reading various books by McDougall (a doctor who believes in nutrition rather than drugs and has some good stuff to say in addition to a whole food plan and line of packaged foods), when a small aside made me start thinking. The aside said something to this effect:

Too much sleep will make you more sleepy, prone to depression and have difficulty with coherent thought. 6 or 7 hours a night is sufficient for most adults. Sick people, pregnant women and children may need more. Studies show that depression responds favorably to a reduction in sleep.

Well. I've always been of the mind that I need about 9 hours of sleep a night. 8 is doable for a while. 7 is doable for a night or two. 10 is heavenly. I've always thought/heard that 8 is what the average adult needs. In addition, it's been my belief that most people are walking around sleep deprived and that lack of sleep is a more common problem.

However, as I've posted here, lately, like in the last year or so, I've felt tired even when I've gotten in a good 9 hours of sleep. I've kind of thought about messing around with the hours, but I didn't really think less would be better. I've always been rather attached to my sleep.

McDougall got me thinking, though. So I did a little internet research. There is a lot out there about people needed a wide variety of sleep to feel their best - between 6 and 10 hours is common. This is what seems to be promoted by the National Sleep Institution.

However, at least one study suggests that 6.5-7.5 hours of sleep is probably best. People live the longest who get that amount of sleep a night. Go figure. In fact, 8.5 hours of sleep is more dangerous health-wise than 5 hours. Also, insomnia is almost always a result of people trying to sleep too much. Can't fall asleep? Waking up and thrashing around for a while? Unless you're hopped up on caffeine or under a lot of stress or you have some other mitigating factor, you're probably trying to sleep too much. Get up and do something. Go back to bed when you feel sleepy. If you are up most of one night, you'll probably sleep well the next.

Check this article out. Here's another, more statistical article about 7 hours being optimum. More sleep increases your risk of a stroke, as well.

It is sort of looking to me like research is ahead of the common sleep recommendations by the national sleep institution, not unlike nutrition research being ahead of the food pyramid.

One thing to keep in mind about all this how much sleep stuff, is that it actually means sleep. Not the period of time you spend in bed, but how much of that you're actually sleeping. With that in mind, I'm trying to get myself to wake up about 8 hours after I turn the light out. I figure with time to fall asleep, time that I get up and pee, time that I'm awake while turning over and all, that makes about 7.5 hours of sleep.

Last night, though, I probably should have gotten up after 7 hours, when I first woke up. Instead, I thought, "Oh, only 7, I'll sleep some more." It took a while to really fall asleep again, but when I woke up, it had been another hour and a half.

I've been trying to sleep shorter for a few nights now. How is it going? Well, I don't feel any more tired than before (except maybe today), but I don't feel more awake and refreshed, either. I do like the extra time awake. So, overall, it's probably a good thing, even if it doesn't make me live longer. We'll see if it catches up with me or if I make the change for good. Anthony would like that. He, while being supportive of my sleep "needs," has always maintained that less sleep is better in a lot of ways.

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