As a college student I value any amount of sleep that I can sneak in to my productive schedule. Some nights I sleep for 14 hours and some nights I sleep for 2 hours and there are nights where I don’t sleep at all. Recently in my psychology course we learned about sleep and what I took away was that it is still not very well understood. People don’t really know why we sleep. The mechanism is unclear. There have been suggestions that REM sleep may be the most important because after not sleep for a long period of time you will immediately go into REM rebound where the intensity and length of REM sleep is increased. While the mechanism may not be clear, people still need to sleep and we spend a good portion of our lives doing so. If people need sleep, then how much sleep is optimal?
Eight hours always seems to be the magic number. It has been circulating for years and this is what parents tell their children when they are tired. Is 8 hours really the optimal time for sleeping? Lunky enough, the National Sleep Foundation put together a study which ended up being a meta-analysis of roughly 300 publications on sleep. They said that they cannot give an exact number for recommend sleep because everyone is unique but a sleep recommendation chart was crafted HERE. Our age group or “young adults (18-25)” is recommended to get about 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Being that this study is a meta-analysis, this information is most likely truthful, especially with a number like 300 studies. Students who are looking for the optimal amount of sleep should stick to around 7-9 hours.
The National sleep foundation explored only traditional sleeping patterns. I have recently heard that sleeping in two 4 hour segments is more effective than the traditional full 8 hours or so of sleep. While I engage in a monophasic sleep or the average 8 hours of sleep in one night, some partake in polyphasic sleeping patterns. These include:
“* The Biphasic Schedule: Two three-to-four-hour sleeps with an hour of awake time in the middle.
* The Dymaxion Sleep Schedule: 30-minute “naps” every 6 hours.
* The Uberman Schedule: Six 30-minute naps per day.
* The Everyman Schedule: A daily three-hour sleep plus three 20-minute naps.”
However, most of these methods lack concrete evidence that they are better, a study reported that most animals on earth are polyphasic sleepers. I believe that more work needs to be done on this subject and a structured experiment may help. If I had the resources, I would put together an experiment that was a randomized controlled trial where the control group would sleep 8 hours and the “treatment group” would test out one of the polyphasic sleep schedules and see the difference if there is any.
The take away message is that yes, you should listen to that old wives tale that you need 8 hours of sleep. With a meta-analysis as evidence any one can be almost certain that this is the correct number of hours to sleep. Although it may not be the amount of time that you sleep that makes you feel the most rested but rather the schedule of your sleep. So if you’re feeling adventurous, give one of these methods a try and let us know how it works out.