How much sleep does the average person really need? The act of sleeping as little as possible is worn like a badge of honor nowadays, especially among successful entrepreneurs and elite sports practitioners. I believe that the popularization of the sleep-less-to-become-successful phenomenon is mostly pushed by good intentions, but unfortunately, it’s also a message that can easily guide people down the wrong path.
As I was drinking my morning coffee today, I watched this video by Casey Neistat. Long story short: Casey Neistat frequently discusses his relationship with sleep. He appears to be among a tiny percentage of people who can get away with unusually little sleep. As little as 4 hours per night.
As someone who has had sleeping problems his entire life, and thus has studied this topic more than the average person to combat this life-sucking problem, I’ll give my two cents on this sleep-less concept.
I’ll sleep when I’m dead.— Said by a lot of pretentious douchebags
Whether the message about sleeping less is coming from Casey Neistat, Arnold Schwarzenegger, 50 Cent, or someone else, please take their advice on sleep with a grain of salt.
It’s not that I don’t believe that people like Casey Neistat follow this regimen — he probably does.
But you are not him.
Just because he can do it, it doesn’t mean it’ll work for you (but it might).
We, humans, share many similarities, but we’re also very different from each other, in various areas. It’s not a one-variable world where one rule applies to all.
As this study suggests, there can be a substantial difference between how much sleep individuals need. Some people, even if they are a 7-8 hour sleeper, can get away with less, at least for short periods of time, without much consequence.
Only a tiny percentage of people can get away with 4-5 hours of sleep per night. I’ve known one of these mystical creatures (people) in my life (assholes!). But most people need a solid 7-8 hours to be fully rested. I personally need 6-7.
A few people need a whopping 9-10 hours to achieve that same level of rest. This is unfortunate for them because they have way fewer hours to be productive in their life than the 7-8 hour sleepers — and incomparably less time than the 4-5 hour sleepers. But that’s life.
Both your brain and your body need proper rest. The scientific data is clear on this. Especially if you have a job that is physically or mentally challenging (or both).
Regardless of how many hours you need, you will suffer severe consequences over time if your body only gets 70% of the recovery it needs on a regular basis. We’re talking about nasty things like:
- Chronic fatigue
- Decreased testosterone production, which can lead to impotence and less aggression, which is suicide if you want to be an entrepreneur. Ironically being sleep-deprived can also make you more aggressive (short fused), but not in a good way.
And a myriad of other unpleasant things that you don’t want in your life.
Quantity of Sleep vs. Quality of Sleep
I wish more celebrities/famous people would push the concept of quality over quantity when it comes to sleep. Instead of subtle-bragging about how little they sleep, and relate that directly to their personal success. Which a lot of them do.
Why celebrities? Why not certified experts, you know, people with PhDs? People who actually study sleep, and make a living from it?
Because they’re not as influential and persuasive to the average person, as celebrities are. Sad, but true.
If you snooze, you lose
Speaking of quality of sleep. If you sleep eight hours on average, but your last hour consists of you snoozing the shit out of your alarm clock, then you’re not doing yourself any favors. Even if you do go back to sleep immediately after hitting the snooze button.
Why? Because you need to sleep at least 30-45 minutes to get any level of quality rest. And if you’re brutally awakened by your alarm clock while in REM sleep (the most crucial part of your sleep) then it’ll take up to 90 minutes for you to return.
Here’s a handful of tips that will increase your quality of sleep:
- Sleep in a pitch black room. This increases your melatonin production which makes it easier for you to sleep.
- Stop snoozing your alarm clock. Get up the first time it rings.
- Don’t do hard physical exercising right before bedtime. It takes most people a couple of hours for their muscles to relax, especially after a strenuous workout.
- If you don’t eat enough food containing magnesium, use a supplement. Magnesium is a crucial mineral responsible for a myriad of enzymatic processes in your body, and it also makes your muscles relax. This is why many bodybuilders use it. Tip: magnesium is best absorbed through your skin. Use a Transdermal magnesium cream for optimal effects.
- Don’t drink coffee a few hours before bed. This is highly individual. I know people who drink coffee right before bed, and they sleep fine (or so they say). If I drink my last cup after 8, I won’t sleep until 1-2 o'clock.
- Drink a tea with high levels of theanine 30-60 minutes before bedtime. It relaxes your body. Different teas have different levels of theanine. Black tea has the most (2-4 times more than green teas on average).
Regardless of how many hours of sleep you personally need, what holds true for everyone, is that one hour of high quality, uninterrupted sleep, is better than two hours of constantly interrupted sleep.
One more thing regarding snoozing:
“But I hit the snooze button in my sleep!”.
Nonsense, just put your alarm far enough away from your bed, so you’ll have to stand out of bed to grab it. This will eliminate that silly excuse. It’s not a matter of whether you can do it, it’s a matter of whether you want to do it.