Ask SleepBetter: Normal Sleep Duration?

Have you wondered about something related to sleep, but just can’t find the answer? Lots of people do, and that’s why we created Ask SleepBetter. You can ask your own question on the SleepBetter Facebook Page, or by using our Ask SleepBetter contact form. We will try to answer as many questions as possible, but we are not able to answer queries about physical issues or medicinal issues. Those should be addressed face-to-face with a physician.

Today’s question is from a woman who wants to know what’s “normal” when it comes to sleep duration:

“ Is it recommended that you sleep 8 hours? Is it normal if you can’t sleep 8 hours, because I can’t sleep that long I only sleep for 6 hours.”

-Aundrea (via Facebook)

Probably the first thing to address is that there is no ironclad “best” amount to sleep.  There is only a range.  Doctors recommend that you sleep for between seven and nine hours each night.  The reason for that wide range is that there is so much variation between individuals.  Some people do just fine with seven hours, while others are exhausted unless they get nine.  Scientists have discovered that there is a very, very rare subset of the population, sometimes called “short sleepers,” who don’t need near as much sleep, and can be fully rested after only five hours of sleep or less.

So, how do you know if you’re getting enough sleep?  It’s fairly simple.  If you wake up feeling refreshed and sometimes even wake before your alarm goes off, then you’re probably getting the right amount of quality sleep.  If you wake up groggy every morning, hit the snooze alarm because you can’t bear the thought of getting out of bed, and need a couple of cups of coffee to get going, then you probably need more sleep.  If you’re in the latter group, try going to bed a half hour earlier or (if your schedule allows) sleeping a half hour later, and see if it makes a difference.  You may need to try it for a few nights to even a week before you see a significant difference, as you first need to pay down your sleep debt if you’re sleep deprived.