Ask LH: What If I Don’t Need Eight Hours Sleep?

Ask LH: What If I Don’t Need Eight Hours Sleep?

Dear Lifehacker, You talk about sleep a lot on this site and how many people aren’t getting enough sleep. I went through a stage where I wasn’t sleeping well, as though I wasn’t actually getting into the deep sleep phases, so I decided to give myself a regular eight hours. I followed all the rules. Only I found that I was sleeping worse.

Realising this I decided just to go to use a sleep tracker. I would go to bed when I was tired and wake without an alarm. I wake up as much as four times a night (not a surprise, I have always done this) but I found that if I slept for six hours I would wake less and feel better than if I slept for eight. So the question is: what about people who need less than eight hours? Thanks, Light Sleeper

Sleep picture from Shutterstock

Dear LS,

Eight hours is only a rule of thumb, not an absolute prescription. As we have noted in the past, it’s generally better to get 6-7 hours of deep or slow-wave sleep (SWS) than 8-9 hours of restless shuteye.

If you find six hours works for you, I wouldn’t stress about getting the “correct” amount. In fact, some schools of thought claim that six or seven hours is actually better for your health.

In a large-scale study involving 1.1 million participants, the University of California compared sleeping patterns to depression and mortality. He found that people who sleep between six-and-a-half hours and seven-and-a-half hours a night tend to have more energy, feel happier and live longer than anyone else.

Interestingly, participants who slept the average eight hours per night were 12 percent more likely to die within the six-year period of the study than those sleeping 7 hours.

“Individuals who average 6.5 hours of sleep a night can be reassured that this is a safe amount of sleep,” head researcher Daniel Kripke said. “From a health standpoint, there is no reason to sleep longer.”

If you want to feel more energetic, adding a power nap into your sleep schedule could be the way to go. The below video gives some handy insights into why this can help:

Other than that, just remember that the key rules for getting good sleep — reducing stress, eating well, exercising and maintaining a sleep-friendly bedroom — apply whatever your exact requirements are.

If you feel energised and well-rested after six hours of sleep, keep doing whatever it is you’re doing and enjoy those extra hours of productivity!

See also: How Much Sleep Do You Really Need To Work As Productively As Possible? | Master Your ‘Body Clock’ To Eat, Sleep And Work More Efficiently | How To Transform Your Bright And Noisy Bedroom Into A Sleep Paradise | How Sleep Detoxes Our Brains

Cheers Lifehacker Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our [contact text=”contact form”].


  • Get a sleep tracker – you’d surprised how much sleep you actually get. I got the Fitbit Force a week ago, have been tracking my sleep. I get around 5.5-6.5 hours per night. Usually if I sleep more, I get headaches – even if I take a nap I feel like crap afterwards because I’m off my cycle. Everyone is different – my wife needs a hell of a lot more sleep than me. What you want is quality sleep – contiguous hours of just deep sleep. The data I get from my tracker is interesting – For the time I spend in bed I feel a lot better that I’m getting good deep sleep throughout the night.

    • I wish fitbit actually gave you more information than they do. They could give you tonnes of great info, but keep it simplistic and gimmicky.

    • There was an article on lifehacker? that said women generally need more sleep than men.

      My partner easily needs between 8-10 hours of sleep but shes a restless sleeper. When i fall asleep, ill wake up once at most during the night and usually to pee lol i usually get 6 hours of straight sleep

  • will i die earlier if i regularly do not get enough sleep?

    i sleep only 3-4 hrs a day on weekdays and sleep for 12 on weekends

    • Will you die,no, at least not directly from lack of sleep. But your sleep pattern is horrible and that has many consequences rangeing from mental and the physical. Things like general alertness, productivity, memory, problem solving, pretty much all critical skills, reaction speeds are drastically reduced, you put on weight, your skin ages faster and it can make you depressed. Pretty much everything in your life is adversely effected from lack of sleep.

      A British study of 10k civil workers found you are 100% more likely to die from all causes if you cut from 7 hours down to 5 hours of sleep or less, paraphrased for summary. Which is what you are doing, so yes your lack of sleep will indirectly kill you.

      Everyone is different some people seriously only need a few hours of sleep each night, the average person needs 7-9 hours. The thing is there is no “catch up” for sleeping either. You either get enough sleep on the night or you don’t, you can’t make up for lost sleep by sleeping longer on the weekends. (as far as i have read, though new stuff is found out all the time.)

      Over sleeping is can be just as bad or worse than under sleeping too, so you need to find how much sleep you need in particular and get it every night.

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