Despite peoples’ claims that they’re “short sleepers,” requiring very
little, studies show that’s true for only about 1 in 1,000 people. Adults need
between seven-and-a-half to eight-and-a-half hours a night—about 56 hours in any
given seven-day period. Kids need more.
There’s an easy way to find out what your personal sleep quotient is. Begin
by working backwards. Tally the hours of sleep you’ve had for the past seven
days and subtract 56 from the total. A negative number means you’re running
With busy lives, it’s not always possible to stick to a strict sleep
schedule. “Sleeping in some on weekends will help reduce your sleep debt. In an
‘emergency,’ she notes, a 10-minute power nap, squeezed in between activities
that requires clear thinking and concentration will likely improve mental and
physical performance. A nap, note sleep experts, that goes beyond 20 or 30
minutes has diminishing returns.
The value of REM Sleep
The kind of sleep we get is important, too. During REM (rapid eye movement or
dreaming) sleep, helps the mind repair and regenerate itself, so we can
concentrate, stay safe, and make good decisions by day. As the night progresses,
each period of REM sleep increases in duration—the longest period, lasting about
an hour, typically occurs between the seventh and eighth hour of sleep. So the
“six-hour sleeper,” for example, is deprived of one of the richest, most
valuable sleep stages.
REM (rapid eye movement) sleep affects a lot of our awake time. People
deprived of REM sleep are more angry, depressed, and moody. Another stage of
sleep affects pain threshold. When we don’t get enough ‘slow-wave sleep,’ we
feel more pain and are going to use the health care system more.
Only recently have we learn sleep adds to health
It’s only been in recent years that sleep and its importance to overall
health and well-being have entered the mainstream.