All my life I have listened to medical experts who said that eight hours is correct amount of sleep for human beings. I often wondered how a concrete number like that could be automatically prescribed for everyone on earth, considering that every person is different and each of our bodies has a different requirement for any number of things that nourish and help us. Nonetheless, I always assumed that the experts must know what they’re talking about, and so I got my eight hours like a good girl.
Over time, however, I noticed that eight hours wasn’t really rejuvenating me anymore. I found it difficult to get up in the morning, and nearly impossible to stay fully alert during the day. Thinking that I must not be getting enough sleep, I made my bed time earlier, and started getting even more rest than I already had been. Much to my surprise, this made the situation worse. I was even more groggy than normal, and getting out of bed in the morning became an exercise akin to pulling teeth. Clearly something was not right. I was pretty sure I wasn’t ill, so obviously something was still wrong with my sleeping schedule.
It wasn’t until I had an unexpected period of being extra busy that I discovered something both interesting and counter-intuitive. I had so much to do and so little time in which to do it, that my daytime activities started cutting into my sleep time. I was worried about this, dreading the inevitable exhaustion, but as it turned out, becoming even more tired was not at all that happened. When I reduced my nightly amount of sleep to six hours, suddenly I started feeling much better. The change was almost immediate, and it was undeniable. At the end of the first week, I couldn’t believe how much more energetic I was, both in the morning and later in the day.
Of course, I couldn’t say for sure that it was the change in my sleep pattern that had caused my sudden recovery from exhaustion, so I tested it by going back to eight hours a night. My original plan was to experiment with eight hours for a couple of weeks, but after the third day I was already feeling drained and weary again, so I gave up and went back to six hours, a pattern which I have continued to follow to this day. I find it easy to get out of bed, and I almost never feel tired until late in the evening.
As it turns out, not everyone needs eight hours a night to feel rested. Some need more, some less. A bit of light research on the internet turned up quite a few studies and personal accounts of people who need only four hours per night, all the way up to ten or more. I was worried that I by only sleeping six hours per night, I was depriving myself of something important, but according to the National Sleep Foundation, there are a wide variety of factors that influence how much sleep a particular person needs, and in the end, there is no magic number that fits everyone. This really put my mind at ease.
I can’t say that I won’t continue to sleep in from time to time, or that I’ll always manage to get exactly six hours per night if I feel I need more or less at a particular time. I’m just glad that I have found some flexibility from what I thought was a hard-and-fast rule, and thus I have been able to create a sleep schudule that both fits my lifestyle, and makes me feel as rested and energetic as I possibly can.