Can You Cut Back on Sleep?
Of course, the answer is “yes.” But should you?
You probably know that sleep is vital to living a healthy life. But between work pressures and family commitments it’s easy to think that an extra hour or two every day to get things done might be a good idea.
That can work in the short term.
But sooner or later staying awake for longer periods will have a negative impact on the quality of your life. So where is that break-even point for the sleep/wake cycle, and can it be shifted?
First, know that sleep has many functions that you do not want negatively impacted -- it helps us consolidate memories, fight infection and manage stress -- while contributing to the maintenance and repair of just about every tissue in our bodies.
Lack of sleep diminishes virtually every activity, from performance at work to performance in (the non-sleeping activities of) bed. Foregoing sleep for extended periods of time has been shown to cause your body’s metabolism to go berserk. High blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, diabetes -- they’re all tied to a lack of sleep.
So the bottom line is this. You can’t sustain a healthy life by scrimping on or shifting your “down” hours. Sleep requirements vary, so there is no “right” amount of sleep. Even so, experts say the average adult needs between 7 and 8 hours a night. Babies, 16 hours. Children and teenagers, 10 and 9 hours, respectively.
There is one caveat here: a very small subset of the population -- 1% to 3% -- can function perfectly well on less than 6 hours of sleep every night. But that is most likely not you.