How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?

Some of the most common comments I have heard over the years in regarding sleep patterns are: "You should be getting 8 hours a sleep a night."

"Taking a daily nap is needed so your energy levels don't drop."

"Wake up early during the week and catch up on sleep on the weekends."

Have you ever heard any of those?

This is probably the toughest topic to address in my opinion. I will be the first to admit that I am not a good example of proper sleep patterns. I find it hard to sleep past 3:30 am unless I am just completely exhausted, I rarely sleep 8 hours in a night, and I like getting a little nap in sometimes (no more than 30 mins). But what I do works for me.

I will attempt to lay out the science behind the big question of, "How much should you sleep?"

In my experience, you can have the best diet in the world, have the best exercise program and be free from emotional stress, but if you aren't sleeping well, for whatever reason, it is virtually impossible to be healthy. But how much sleep do you need for optimal health?

Over the years, I've come to a conclusion that there is no perfect answer to this question because like everything else, the answer depends on a large number of highly individual factors. The general consensus seems to be that most people need somewhere between six and eight hours of sleep each night.

There is compelling research available that indicates sleeping less than six hours may increase your insulin resistance and risk of diabetes. Some recent studies even show sleeping less than five hours a night can double your risk of being diagnosed with angina, coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke. On the contrary, the same appears to be true when you sleep more than nine hours per night.

One of the first indications that you may be getting sick is that your body tries to rest, as sleeping helps strengthen your immune system. So chronically sleeping longer than the average eight or nine hours could be an early indication that you have an underlying illness your body is trying to recover from.

In terms of making up for sleep, it is a very common pattern in our world that people short sleep during the week and then sleep in on the weekend. It's considered a delightful experience. For me, it's kind of funny. It's like starving yourself during the week and then pigging out on the weekend. It's not the best way to eat, as we know.

Everyone loses sleep here and there, and your body is typically resilient enough to allow for that. However, when poor sleep becomes a constant, there's no question your health may be at risk.

You can make up for some lost sleep on the weekend but here is the price: it throws off your circadian rhythm. Basically you are confusing your brain. Not a good thing.

Asking how much sleep you should get is like asking how many calories should you eat. There are way too many factors that go in to play. With nutrition it normally comes down to the quality of the nutrients you are consuming and the same can be said about sleep patterns.

In a recent study done by clinical psychologist, Dr. Rubin Naiman; who is a leader in integrative medicine approaches to sleep and dreams made a great recommendation to this subject matter. He said you should sleep "enough hours so that your energy is sustained through the day without artificial stimulation, with the exception of a daytime nap."