Sleep is an integral aspect of life and you may be surprised to learn how greatly it affects your cognitive abilities and body performance in general. The topic of sleep and how much each one of us requires has gained various insights from different bodies and individuals. Of all that has been said about sleep, you would agree with me that 6 hours is the most controversial modern sleeping time.
While many of us feel like we are getting enough sleep, studies have depicted that sleep time is continually reducing in the modern world. So, considering the benefits sleep has to our wellbeing, how do we know that we are getting enough sleep? Is 6 hours of sleep enough for every person? Is sleep time even a constant factor for all people? Let’s shed some light on these questions.
A quick answer of Is 6 Hours of Sleep Enough
Despite 6 hours being an okay sleep time in the modern world, it is not enough regardless of the age group. First, I must begin by saying that sleep time varies from person to person according to their specific needs and some underlying factors such as work schedules. However, in general, our bodies still need an additional one to two hours to the popular 6 hours of sleep time, considering the complex tasks we involve ourselves in each day.
Now let’s jump into the ultimate guide that will clear the air on the topic of how much sleep we should get with our reference time being 6 hours.
An overview of the sleep cycle
Have you ever thought of how the numbers we consult to know the average sleep time we need are arrived at? They all stem from the human sleep cycle. Generally, to get enough sleep, you must go through at least four sleep cycles, each lasting about 90 minutes and with the following stages:
Stage 1- Drowsy sleep
This is the sleep preparation stage you go into when you get to bed. Here, there is non- rapid eye movement beneath the eyelid and hence you can easily be woken by any sleep disturbances. The activities of your brain slow down as you move to a more restful sleep stage.
Stage 2- Spindles sleep
As your brain relaxes, it moves to a series of activities that protect it from awakening called sleep spindles. There is rapid eye movement during this stage of sleep, and you can’t easily be woken up.
Stage 3- Restorative sleep
Each time you sleeptalk or sleepwalk, you are most likely in the restorative sleep stage. If you come to think of it, you can only sleepwalk if you are in a very deep sleep state. In this sleep stage, the activities of the brain are significantly reduced. Although this is a non-rapid eye movement sleep stage, you can’t, again, be easily woken.
Stage 4- Active sleep
This is a rapid eye movement sleep stage characterized by a rise in brain activities. In this last stage, you are likely to have a dream and if you wake up when your dream is at its maximum, you probably got enough sleep.
As seen above, sleep is a complex process that must involve all of the above stages. The time you take to complete each stage may vary from person to person or from a sleeping cycle to another. If we consider a minimum of 4 sleep cycles, each taking at least 90 minutes, you need a minimum of 6 hours to complete a perfect sleep and rest period. However, it would help if you had an extra hour or two to cater to the transitioning time from one stage to another and compensate for stages and cycles that delay.
Why 6 hours of sleep is not enough?
Most of the studies done to determine enough sleep time for an average person have shown that 6 hours is insufficient. A sleep study published in a journal called ‘sleep’ showed clearly this aspect. The study subjected some individuals to different hours of sleep and then evaluated their performance and overall experiences. Surprisingly, the study’s findings on the people subjected to 6 hours of sleep time showed that their cognitive performance was similar to people who did not sleep at all.
While in such a study, the subjects can explain their experiences honestly after different hours of sleep, we usually tend to assume that we have got enough sleep each time we wake up to handle a task. It is okay to sleep for 6 hours as even in most of the studies, subjects are able to hold up quite nicely for at least a week. However, if you sleep for 6 hours a day for more than ten days, your cognitive performance will be significantly affected and you will always be in a sleep debt-like situation.
Even if we borrow some numbers from leading organizations such as the national sleep foundation, we still see 7-8 hours being the recommended sleeping time for older adults. Therefore, it would not hurt if you sleep for an additional hour to the 6 hours you are accustomed to.
Tips to help you get quality sleep
It is not all about the numbers. The quality of sleep also determines how you will perform cognitively and generally in life. Here are some tips to help you get quality sleep:
- Avoid heavy meals before bed – Heavy meals will keep your digestive system active throughout the night, a factor that will compromise the primary purpose of sleep; relaxing. Just snack lightly before you go to bed.
- Avoid distractions – Sleep distractors include loud music, bright lights and electronic devices such as phones. Always avoid these factors when you are in bed for better quality sleeping.
- Adopt a relaxing pre-bedtime – It is easier to fall asleep when you relax for at least an hour before you go to bed. You may read a book or soft- converse with your partner to achieve this.
- Adopt a sleeping schedule – Our bodies better adapt to patterned sleep, a process that guarantees quality sleep each time we go to bed. Consider going to bed at almost the same time each day.
- Choose comfortable beddings – The quality of your mattress, pillows, sheets and duvets also plays a role in supporting quality sleep. Always choose beddings that are comfortable and highly practical for you.
Six hours of sleep is okay, especially for a person with a tight working schedule but not enough to cater to the body’s resting needs. Since some factors affecting sleep, such as work, are inevitable, it is good to strategize using some of the above tips on how to get the most out of the sleeping time you have. Regardless of the time, you take to sleep, always keep in mind that quality of sleep is a significant factor that affects your cognitive performance and general wellbeing.