Is 6 Hours of Sleep Enough: A Look at How Much Sleep We Really Need

Is 6 hours of sleep enough to get you through the day? The clock never seems to be your friend when it comes to getting enough sleep. While the hours of the day fly by, it is easy to get caught up in everything you have to do and end up leaving little time for sleeping. On more than one occasion, you may have asked yourself, “Is 6 hours of sleep enough?”

Many people have the same struggles. Trying to get everything done that you have to do each day and finding enough time to sleep is a common issue. The prevailing thought is that adults need 8 hours of sleep each day to function properly. However, sleep is a complex issue. So, is 6 hours of sleep enough? The answer to that question may surprise you.

The Importance of Sleep

The concept of sleeping is a tough one for even the experts. While we know a lot about it, there is still much that is not known. In fact, sleep is probably one of the main body functions about which researchers know the least. It is hard to study, and nobody has actually pinpointed the reason why we have to sleep.

According to LiveScience, the body is in a vulnerable state when sleeping, which is unusual because that goes against the body’s innate desire to protect itself. Therefore, it must be important. And research has uncovered that without sleep, humans do not function well. The truth is that going without sleep for a prolonged time can kill you.

The function of sleep

The National Sleep Foundation explains that sleep is essential for proper brain function. Research shows that when you sleep, your brain carries on important operations. It works to move memories from short-term to long-term memory. It catalogs all the information you learned throughout the day.

This time also is good for your body. It is when hormones synthesize, tissues repair, and muscles grow. These functions are the reason why children need more sleep than adults. They are growing and developing, which the body mainly does while at rest.

The science behind sleep

Sleep boils down to maintaining the circadian rhythm. That is the natural sleep/wake cycle of the body. When you sleep, you move through two phases. One is non-rapid eye movement. Non-REM is when your brain waves slow down and become almost inactive. The other phase is rapid eye movement. REM is the opposite of non-REM. Your brain is almost as active as when you are awake. However, during REM, your body becomes paralyzed. You need to go through these phases multiple times during the night to get a good night’s rest.

Benefits

When you sleep well, you reap many physical and mental benefits. Mentally, you ensure your brain functions correctly. You can boost your mood, think clearer, lower stress and according to the National Institutes of Health, you also focus better and become more productive. Furthermore, because your thinking is sharper, you are less likely to get injured.

Physical benefits of sleep include lower risks for diseases (especially cardiovascular), a reduction in illness thanks to a boosted immune system, and an improved ability to manage your weight. It also helps you function at your overall best both physically and mentally.

Recommended Number of Sleep Hours

Many factors play into how much sleep you really need each day. These factors include your lifestyle, age, health, and the amount of stress in your life. While different organizations have various recommendations, they are all similar. In addition, they all give recommendations based on age.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommendations

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides basic recommendations for age groups. It advises adults get 7 to 8 hours each night. Teens need 8 to 10 hours. School-aged children should get 9 to 12 hours. Toddlers need to sleep 11 to 14 hours, and babies need the most at 12 to 16 hours. Do note that the hours for toddlers and babies include napping.

National Sleep Foundation recommendations

The National Sleep Foundation has broken things down a bit more into specific age ranges. The NSF also gives recommended sleep hours along with a range for how little and how much a person could sleep and still get a proper amount of rest.

Adults

Let’s look at adults first. People ages 18 to 25 years old need 7 to 9 hours of sleep, but it is possible for some adults to do fine on 6 hours. Other adults in this age range may need as much as 11 hours. People 26 to 64 years old also need 7 to 9 hours. They could be fine with as little as 6 hours or need as much as 10 hours. Those over the age of 65 should get 7 to 8 hours each night but might be fine with only 5 hours. Some people over 65 may need up to 9 hours.

One note about the adult recommendations is that your original question gets an answer. Is 6 hours of sleep enough? It is possible. However, stay tuned because we will look at why 6 hours of sleep is not recommended and may only work for some people.

Teens and children

Teens and children need a little more sleep than adults. Those 14 to 17 years old should get 8 to 10 hours each night. However, they might be fine with only 7 hours. Some may need up to 11 hours. Children ages 6 to 13 generally need 9 to 11 hours, but some children may be okay with only 7 hours while others may need as much as 12 hours. Finally, children from age 3 to 5 need 10 to 13 hours of sleep. Some may be well rested with only 8 hours or need up to 14 hours.

Babies and newborns

Moving onto the last age groups, babies and newborns, you will see they need the most sleep. For babies ages 1 to 2, the recommended sleep time is 11 to 14 hours. Some babies may only need 9 hours. Others may need up to 16 hours. Infants from 4 to 11 months need 12 to 15 hours a day but could be fine with only 10. Some may need as much as 18 hours of sleep. Newborns to infants aged 3 months need 14 to 17 hours of sleep. They might get by with 11 hours, or need up to 19 hours.

So, Is 6 Hours of Sleep Enough?

When considering these recommendations, you do need to keep in mind that your body is the ultimate key to how much sleep you need. The bottom line is that if you don’t get enough sleep, you will know it because your body and brain will signal you that all is not well.

So is 6 hours of sleep enough? The reason why neither organization lists 6 hours of sleep as a recommendation and the NSF only lists it as a possibility is because there is plenty of proof that more sleep is better and very little proof that 6 hours is effective for everyone.

When it comes to the question, “is 6 hours of sleep enough,” perhaps you should look at it from a different perspective. While the actual number of hours you must sleep each night is not entirely clear, one thing is. Healthline states the quality of your sleep is very important. You want to ensure that when you sleep, you get a large block of time sleeping deeply and going through the sleep cycle uninterrupted. Being able to sleep well can reduce the number of hours you need to sleep, making it possible to feel rested after only 6 hours.

Also, there is research that shows 6 hours of sleep may be okay for some people. ABC News did a report where it explained some research shows that a very small segment of the population can get by on 6 hours of sleep a day due to a genetic link. However, the overall takeaway was that it is incredibly rare, so the answer to “is 6 hours of sleep enough” is usually no.

Risks of not getting enough sleep

According to Medscape, there is a large portion of the adult population in the United States who sleep only 6 hours each night. That is a bit scary because that means many people move through life sleep deprived.

When you do not get enough sleep, you put yourself and others at risk. Being consistently deprived of sleep can lead to obesity, cardiovascular disease, bad moods, lowered immunity, decreased energy and mental fog. Studies show that going without sleep for as little as 24 hours can lead to serious mental effects, including hallucinations. If you do not sleep enough hours, you throw off your circadian rhythm, which affects many of your bodily functions. That is why it is so important to get plenty of sleep.

Is It Possible to Catch up on Sleep?

For many people, if they do not get enough sleep during the week, they think they can simply sleep more on the weekend and catch up. Unfortunately, it does not work this way. Sleep.org explains that when you miss sleep, you create a sleep debt, which is the difference between how much sleep you need and how much you get. You cannot repay this debt by sleeping more on other days. Instead, this throws off your routine, which affects your circadian rhythm. It can also lead to insomnia and other issues.

The best way to make up your sleep debt is through getting back into a normal routine. For the short-term, you can nap to make up some of the debt, but this should not be a long-term solution. Instead, Scientific American suggests slowly changing your sleep routine to get it to where it needs to be. Go to bed an hour earlier or sleep in an hour later. Gradually add time each night to get the required number of hours. If you are severely sleep deprived, it could take you months to get back on track.

The important point here is that if your personal answer to “is 6 hours of sleep enough?” is no, then you should try to get more sleep. You don’t want to end up sleep deprived because fixing it so you can be well-rested is difficult.

Tips for Sleeping Better and Longer

It is common for people to not get enough sleep because they have trouble falling or staying asleep. That may be why you are asking is 6 hours of sleep enough. Perhaps you can only get 6 hours due to your schedule and the fact you cannot fall asleep when you need to. If this sounds like you, consider the following tips.

The main thing you want to do is to develop a regular sleep schedule. Stick to the schedule every single day, including weekends. Do not let yourself oversleep on the weekends or days off because this will throw the whole schedule off. That can help you avoid having to ask, “Is 6 hours of sleep is enough.”

The Better Sleep Council also recommends creating a sleeping area that encourages relaxation. Keep the room dark and quiet. Remove electronics. Ensure your sleeping space is comfortable. Use pillows designed for the way you sleep, such as side sleeping or back sleeping.

You also want to adjust your lifestyle habits. Avoid stimulating substances, such as caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine for two hours before you go to bed. Also, stop eating a few hours before sleeping. Finally, do not nap late in the day.

A couple of last things you might try can help turn off your mind and get you into a good state to sleep. You can start meditating. It makes it much easier to slip into a relaxed mindset. If you have a lot of stress or find yourself running over worries in your mind as you try to fall asleep, start journaling before bed to get out all of your concerns.

Is 6 Hours of Sleep Enough? — Laying Things to Rest

Is 6 hours sleep enough? That question may weigh heavily on your mind, but now you know the answer. Your body will tell you if it is enough, but chances are it is not. Take the things you learned and put them to use in your life because getting a good night’s rest is essential to a healthier and happier you.

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