The Debate Over The Best Sleep Length

Here at SleepBetter, when we’re asked how much sleep adults need, we answer that seven to nine hours is best.  The reason for the wide range is that every individual is different and every individual needs a different amount of sleep.  Some researchers are now saying, however, that the “right” amount of sleep may actually be on the low end of that range.

The Wall Street Journal recently did a roundup of different studies that seem to prove that around seven hours may be the “sweet spot” for adult sleep.  The Journal pointed to these recent studies:

  • A researcher at the University of California San Diego, tracked data on 1.1 million people over a six-year period.  The subjects were actually participating in a large cancer study, but as part of the study their sleep was charted. People who reported they slept 6.5 to 7.4 hours had a lower mortality rate than those with shorter or longer sleep.  The study was published in 2002.
  • In 2011, the same researcher at USC found further evidence that the optimal amount of sleep might be closer to seven hours. The researchers recorded the sleep activity of about 450 elderly women using devices on their wrist for a week. Some 10 years later the researchers found that those who slept fewer than five hours or more than 6.5 hours had a higher mortality.
  • A study in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience last year used data from users of the cognitive-training website Lumosity. Researchers looked at the self-reported sleeping habits of about 160,000 users who took spatial-memory and matching tests and about 127,000 users who took an arithmetic test. They found that cognitive performance increased as people got more sleep, reaching a peak at seven hours before starting to decline.

It seems that, according to these findings, sleeping more than seven hours doesn’t gain you much.  Other medical experts disagree, however.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is helping to fund a panel of medical specialists and researchers to review the scientific literature on sleep and develop new recommendations.  Their report is expected some time next year.  We hope they take into consideration that the quality of sleep is just as important as the quantity.  Having the right sleeping environment, including the proper bedding, is key.

Source: The Wall Street Journal