The truth about how much sleep you actually need
So, how much sleep do you actually need?
If you google "How much sleep do I need?", you'll come up with a typical answer of 7-½ or maybe 8 hours. But here's the thing: sleep doesn’t happen in one stretch. Sleep is actually different phases and cycles. A typical sleep cycle is 90 minutes long, and it consists of three phases: light sleep, REM sleep, and deep sleep. REM sleep is when we dream, when our subconscious mind gets to digest everything that's been going on throughout the day.
How much sleep do you need?
- We have four to five 90-minute sleep cycles. If you do the math, that means you need 7-½ hours. However, that’s just an average. Some people might need less, some people might need more, and some people might only need four instead of five sleep cycles. So it's important that you don't try to fit into that compartmentalized number of hours like it needs to be exactly 7-½ or 8. Some people think if they sleep more than that, "I'm too lazy," or if they sleep less, “That means I'm not getting enough; maybe I'm actually tired" when you're actually not because you did get enough sleep. So it's really important to understand where that number is coming from and how sleep works.
- Some people can get very stressed because they don't have one long stretch of sleep, but instead, they wake up several times. In general, I would say that's totally fine, especially if you fall back asleep within 5 to 15 minutes. It just means that you had some wake-up time between the wake and sleep states. Actually, for the longest time, awakening was also a stage included in the sleep family. So embrace it. It's just part of what happens in our 24 hour-day cycle. Don't expect it to be a perfect stretch necessarily.
Instead of saying, "Hey, now I'm awake again," it might be a good idea to reframe that
and say, "I managed to get some sleep because now I woke up."
- If you have longer issues, like if you wake up around 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. and you're awake for an hour or an hour and a half, and then you fall back asleep and the next day you're totally exhausted – that's a different story. That's where we go into your physiological side because something's happening with your body.