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  • Olav Schewe

You Probably Don't Need Eight Hours of Sleep Every Night

You've probably heard that humans need eight hours of sleep every night, right? But as this article explains, it's a poor rule to live by. That's because eight hours of sleep is an AVERAGE of what people need. And since it's just an average, it means that most people need either more or less.

Saying that you must sleep for eight hours is like saying you must wear a shoe size 41 (US 10.5) because it's the average in the population. For some, size 41 may fit, but most people have smaller or larger feet. They need to find the shoe size that fits them.

This is also how it is with sleep. For some, eight hours are enough, but many need more or less. To sleep optimally, you need to determine how much sleep you require. Perhaps you're a person who needs closer to seven hours to function at your best? Maybe you're one of the few with a special sleep pattern that allows you to get by with as little as five hours? Or perhaps you need closer to ten hours to function optimally?

I, for example, need around nine hours to be well-rested and at my best. I've discovered this by paying attention to how I feel on days following seven, eight, and nine hours of sleep.

You can do the same. Notice how you feel on days with varying amounts of sleep the night before.

If you sleep better, you can also expect to learn better, for sleep is essential for learning. Throughout the day, a buildup of certain toxins called "metabolites" occurs in the brain. They accumulate because they get wedged between all the brain cells. But when you sleep, the brain cells shrink. This allows the toxins to be removed, and the brain gets ready for new learning. Have you noticed that you concentrate better when well-rested?

During a day of learning, you also form many new connections between the nerve cells in the brain. During a night of good sleep, these connections are strengthened, ensuring that this knowledge sticks. In addition, good sleep contributes to good health. There are, in fact, many reasons to take sleep seriously.


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