Many of us aren’t getting enough sleep on a day to day basis. Here’s how much sleep you need to perform at your best…
We all know someone who claims not to need much sleep each night to perform optimally. These are the people who go to bed at 11pm, wake up at 4am, and claim to have gotten plenty of sleep.
Are these people telling the truth or are they just so sleep deprived that they just don’t know the difference?
Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep, though a few people may be able to get by on just 6 hours.
Each day a chemical called adenosine builds up in your blood, which is later broken down when you sleep. If you don’t sleep enough, the chemical builds up in your body making you sleepier.
This, in turn, causes a slowing in reaction times, to the point of causing 1,500 driving related deaths a year. Consider this, staying up for 24 hours can cause the same effects as driving while intoxicated, AND just 2-3 hours too little sleep for a few days can have the same effect as staying up all night.
In other words, you have to sleep consistently, and not just catch up on your lack of sleep on the weekends. But what if you can’t? As in, your workload prohibits sleeping?
The best example I can think of for this is the Vendee Globe Race, in which sailors race single-handed around the world non-stop and unassisted.
In this case, autopilots can steer the boat for periods of time, however the sailor wants to be awake constantly to trim the sails, steer the boat (people are faster & safer than autopilots), navigate, watch the weather, and keep a lookout for things they could collide with.
Many of these sailors get by with intervals of sleep that only last 20-30 minutes at a time, and rarely sleep more than one hour at a time over the course of 80+ days (see the video below). In fact, they often report sleeping approximately 5 total hours in a 24 hour period.
These sailors are proof that you can do something extremely physically and mentally taxing for a prolonged period of time without much sleep. Nevertheless, it is a brutal experience.
Of course, unless you are a new parent, you probably don’t have any reason to deal with this level of sleep deprivation on a consistent basis.
And what if you do have that relentlessly hard driving boss who works all hours?
Well, while it may feel like you need to put in crazy hours at work, after a certain number of days without enough sleep you are basically in the same boat as doing your job intoxicated… which can’t be the most productive way to operate.
So take a moment, go to sleep a bit earlier tonight, and forget about that crazy talk about the most productive people getting up at 4am… the only way that works is if you go to bed before 9pm.