Imagine you had a late night last night. You wake up feeling sleep-deprived, so you decide that you’ll go to bed early tonight to catch up on your rest. You think that by getting an extra few hours of sleep, you’ll wake up feeling refreshed the next morning.
Many of us have used this line of thinking, but how often does it work? You can probably recall times where you had perhaps 5 hours of sleep, but still felt energised and productive. There are likely other times when you’ve gone to bed early, but woke up feeling as though you barely slept.
Could it be that good sleep is more complicated than reaching a magic number of hours per night? Is it the quantity or quality of your sleep that affects how you feel?
More is better
Many of us grow up with our parents telling us that we should get more sleep. Babies sleep an astonishing 14-17 hours every day, while teens need 8-10 hours of rest. Adults can function well on 7-9 hours. From the parental perspective, more sleep is better for growing children.
That’s where the “more is better” mentality begins, but we have supporting evidence from our experience. Science tells us that we need to sleep to survive, and when you rest, your body can heal and recharge. You’ll feel more energized when you wake up. This thinking makes sense, but it is overly simplistic.
Think of it this way–your phone has a battery. No matter how long you put the phone to charge, it can’t go more than 100% It doesn’t create new ways to store energy. It just maxes out. Your body works in the same way. You need rest, but more sleep doesn’t necessarily give you an extra supply of energy.
Sleep studies from the past used to focus on the number of hours of sleep that people need. We’ve all heard of the need to get a certain number of hours per night to keep our bodies and minds in peak condition. Government health organisations further impress upon us the need to get a certain number of hours of rest.
Finally, studies on people with sleep deficiencies show that they have a shorter and poorer quality of life than people with adequate sleep. A sleep-deprived brain can behave like an intoxicated brain, and long-term cognitive issues can arise with continuous substandard sleep. It’s no wonder we all have the mind set that it is important to sleep as much as we can!
Is too much a good thing?
So if we have been told that it is important to get more rest, then is it really a good thing to sleep a lot? We’ve all woken up from a nap and felt terrible afterward. Studies have shown that sleeping too much is in actual fact, not good for you. Sleepers tend to have more issues with depression, increased pain, a higher risk of heart attack and stroke, and impaired cognitive function.1
Too much sleep can leave you feeling tired and sluggish. Having a day where you sleep too much throws off your sleep cycle, which eventually hurts the quality of sleep that you have. People who insist that they can make up for lost sleep on the weekends sabotage their chances of being well-rested ultimately.
How you sleep is more important than how much you’re sleeping
Of course you need a reasonable number of hours of sleep to feel rested. Nobody would dispute that. Sleep quantity is just one part of the equation. How we sleep is more important than the number of hours we sleep.
Feeling refreshed after sleep has a lot to do with your REM cycle. REM stands for “rapid eye movement,” and describes the dream phase of the sleep cycle. You generally reach the first 10-minute REM cycle about an hour and a half after you close your eyes.2 You’ll continue to hit REM sleep every 90 to 120 minutes until it’s…
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