Can You Train Your Body to Sleep Less?

In high school I consistently went to bed around 3am and woke up for school at 7am. None of my friends understood how I could get so little sleep and yet still function normally in the day. After a summer of changing up my sleep patterns, I can no longer keep my eyes open after getting the amount of sleep that I used to get just a few months ago. What did I do to require so little sleep before? Can we train ourselves to need less sleep?

This image came from

This image came from

According to Karen Weintraub of The New York Times, I’m completely wrong about my own ability to function with minimal sleep. Dr. Sigrid Veasy, a professor at the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, claims that teenagers don’t function normally with less than the 8 to 10 hour sleep recommendation. She explains that one effect of being deprived of sleep is misjudgment of the amount of sleep we need at the time. Because many students don’t understand how a lack of sleep really affects the mind and body, they are convinced that running on minimal sleep is acceptable. Some benefits of sleep and the drawbacks of sleep deprivation are explained in blogs like The TRUTH Behind Sleep and How much do we really need sleep?, which explain that the closer someone gets to reaching the recommended amount of sleep, the healthier they will be.

However, I couldn’t help but wonder if it is possible to alter your own natural rhythm of sleep, without experiencing the downfalls of sleep deprivation that are discussed in these blog posts. Personally, in the short time that I used to sleep, I slept very well. According to Christie Nicholson from Scientific American, we sleep with greater intensity when we are sleep deprived. Therefore, my sleep deprivation may have caused me to sleep better than if I had consistently slept longer, but it still does not compensate for the lack of sleep. There is no evidence that proves that altering the amount of time that is necessary to sleep for is possible, but evidence does show that it is possible to alter the time of day or night that you feel tired. The National Sleep Foundation explains that our internal circadian biological clocks are responsible for controlling the signals in our brain that determine when we should be awake, and when we should be asleep. In addition, it is also responsible for making us feel more alert during the day even when we are sleep deprived. This effect could factor in to why people feel like they need less sleep than they actually need.

This image came from

This image came from

There are no published studies that specifically examine what happens when people try to beneficially alter the amount of sleep they get. This could mean that if studies were conducted, the researches probably accepted the null hypothesis, which in this case is that it is not possible to train yourself to function normally with less sleep. Therefore, the study might not have escaped the file drawer since these results are not exciting. The lack of specific studies for this topic could also be due to the fact that people accept that knowledge about sleep is enough to determine that the closer to 8 to 10 hours of sleep a teenager gets the better, because there is no way to dodge sleep deprivation. Based on these results, I’m glad that I no longer get such an insufficient amount of sleep. Even though I was not aware of it, I was less productive, as my body was not as charged up as necessary. Although I trained myself to learn to stay awake longer and cope with sleep deprivation, I did not alter the amount of sleep that is necessary for myself to get.

The TRUTH Behind Sleep

How much do we really need sleep?

3 thoughts on “Can You Train Your Body to Sleep Less?

  1. Wendy Sun

    Very interesting topic. I always wonder why I need more sleep than others and why I feel more tired than the person sleeping 5 hours a day when I slept 10. Haha. I read an article where a professor slept in 4-5 sessions of 30 minute naps throughout the day and he was able to function well and have more time to do research. If only we had more than 24 hours a day. There are also many different sleep cycles that also seem to work and not make you feel tired. you would think sleeping a total of 2-3 hours split into 5 naps would make you feel extremely tired. However, its the complete opposite! Here are some alternative sleep schedules:

  2. Brian A Vargas

    Great post! Ive always been interested in topic as I have trouble sleeping and sometimes feel well rested with just four or five hours of sleep. While I known this isn’t ideal its just how my body functions, especially when stuck in a routine. If I sleep too long, I feel as if I overslept and am less energized then I am with the few hours I usually get. It would be great to see more studies done on the topic. I found a article by the
    Huffington post detailing the effects of sleeping less then 6 hours, which include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, heart disease, amongst many more which can be found in the linked article. After reading more into this I will definitely be trying to get more sleep.

Leave a Reply