April 20, 2005 1:14 AM   Subscribe

For the last year or so I need what seem to be enormous amounts of sleep to feel rested. Last night for example I fell asleep at about 23:00, "woke up" at 7:30 (half an hour late) and still had trouble getting out of bed. I'm 26 years old and feel that I should be able to sleep less than that to feel rested.

Or at least, everyone else I know seems to be fine with much less. So I have some questions:

- why do I need to sleep so long?
- can I train myself to sleep less?

I do sports - for the moment about 3 hours a week, but I'll probably do more later this year. I've not found this to have any effect on the amount of sleep I need.

I'm really not happy with this situation. I've missed the best part of parties because I got too tired and had to go to bed.
posted by Skyanth to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You simply need more sleep. 8.5 hours isn't an "enormous amount", despite what you might hear from friends; I frequently get 10+. You can definitely build up a debt and need to pay it off; what is the average amount of sleep you get a night?

If you need to both stay up late and get up early, find a time in the middle of the day to nap. If you get at least 4 hours or so of "anchor sleep" at night, you can make the rest up with naps where necessary.
posted by trevyn at 1:25 AM on April 20, 2005

The same thing happened to me. Two years ago, I functioned exceptionally well with an average of four and a half hours sleep a night. Then I suddenly started to struggle with less than seven. I'm slowly getting back to more action/less sleep by eating healthier foods, getting more exercise, drinking less alcohol and smoking more cigarettes. I realise that cigarettes mightn't have what you'd call universal appeal as a lifestyle-enhancer, but for me they do the trick as far as staying awake is concerned. I'm still not awake as long as I'd like to be, though.
The other things that have changed since the not-much-sleep-needed days are: I'm no longer sleeping alone; there's a television in my house; I have a more stressful job and I'm 32 years old now.
posted by bunglin jones at 1:34 AM on April 20, 2005

It could be the Big C.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 2:50 AM on April 20, 2005

or something as benign but annoying as the Epstein-Barr virus (mononucleosis, in other words). Hie thee to a doctor, sir.
posted by yclipse at 3:35 AM on April 20, 2005

i sleep more than that.
posted by andrew cooke at 3:38 AM on April 20, 2005

I also don't think needing more than 8.5 hrs in a night means anything is wrong. I vary from 6 to 10 hours per night depending on the week and my state of mind.
posted by shoos at 4:02 AM on April 20, 2005

I agree that this isn't necessarily too much sleep. Eight hours is not a hard rule of sleep. Some people need less, but some people need more. I need at least 9 hours to feel rested, and certain medications cause me to need more than that.

Have you had your thyroid checked? A thyroid that isn't functioning properly can make you feel run down, and make waking up difficult. This is what caused my feelings of being tired, so that's why I'm suggesting it as a possibility.

How late are you up doing sports? Exercise too close to bedtime can make it difficult for you to have proper sleep. Other things that can disrupt sleep are alcohol, and caffeine. Caffeine even in the afternoon can affect your sleep at night.

If you are concerned still and nothing seems to be the cause, go to a doctor. Can't hurt to get checked out, most likely the doc will just ask you questions and do a blood test.
posted by veronitron at 4:16 AM on April 20, 2005

Response by poster: Aw. Thanks for your answers, but don't get me wrong: I am not concerned. Merely annoyed - so annoyed that I'd like to do something about it.
posted by Skyanth at 4:49 AM on April 20, 2005

I think it's a question of YMMV, but it certainly wouldn't hurt to check with an MD or sleep specialist just to be sure. I'm with others here. I've known many people (including my wife) that need 9 hours of sleep per night. Myself, I mostly get by on 6-7 hours per night, but need at least one night per week of 9-10 hours. Always been that way.

I've missed the best part of parties because I got too tired and had to go to bed.

This part reminds me of that Dave Attell bit: "ya shoulda been there man!. ... Dude!! Man, after you left, all these strippers showed up with these midgets, and..."
posted by Tommy Gnosis at 4:53 AM on April 20, 2005

What are your eating habits like? I noticed that when I started making a conscious effort to take vitamins daily and eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, I started having more energy.

I know this doesn't exactly answer your question, but nobody's brought it up yet, plus I'm thinking maybe if you have to reconcile yourself to more sleep than you'd rather need, having more energy because of a healthy diet will make your awake-time more productive.
posted by elisabeth r at 5:17 AM on April 20, 2005

I've read that the average person needs 8 to 9 hours of sleep a night, and most people don't get enough sleep. Makes sense to me.
posted by languagehat at 5:52 AM on April 20, 2005

You could also get yourself checked out for sleep apnea. It isn't just something overweight people get. It could cause you to be not getting enough actual sleep, even if you are in bed for all that time.
posted by matildaben at 5:53 AM on April 20, 2005

Have you changed when you get your sleep? I know if I go to bed at 4 and get up at 11 that is great but if I go to bed at 11 and get up at 6 that is horrible.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:38 AM on April 20, 2005

I would be concerned as this represents a change in your sleeping pattern. It still may be nothing, but I would see a doctor and get a full blood work-up.

Sleep apnea is definitely a good possibility. Are you a snorer? Do you find yourself waking up abruptly during the night? Do you sleep with someone who could tell you whether you appear to stop breathing for short periods during the night?
posted by caddis at 6:51 AM on April 20, 2005

Sleeping is good for you and it makes you feel better, or it should. I would wonder about depression if you wanted to sleep all the time and did not wake rested even when sleeping till you woke naturally (with out alarm).

The interesting thing is that your sleep habits have changed.

I will agree that 8.5 hours is not an "enormous" amount of sleep.

I know many folks that have trained them self to get by with less sleep. Most of them do not seem to feel all that great when they wake and most rely on caffeine to make it work. Force your self out of bed early, coffee, sleepy six hours later, coffee, ten/ twelve hours after waking more coffee. Repeat for three to ten years. It is a trade off that doesn't appeal to me. To each their own
posted by flummox at 7:01 AM on April 20, 2005

8.5 hours is well within the normal range of daily sleep.

Waking up tired after 8.5 hours of sleep is not particularly usual if you're getting the full 8.5 hours every night, though I would hesitate to call it abnormal. Lots of things can disrupt sleep efficiency, including the environment (noisy/bright bedroom), bad sleep hygiene or habits, daytime stresses, caffeine, alcohol, other psychoactive substances, depression, and - yes - sleep apnea, although in a physically fit 26 year old sleep apnea's not particularly likely.

You can't train yourself to be well rested on less sleep than your body needs. Even though the normal range is rather wide, the area of that range that any one individual can occupy (and still stay healthy and well rested) is not wide at all, and the medical consensus is that it can't be changed. Techniques to chronically sleep-deprive yourself, such as doing a medical residency, will come back and bite you on the ass, to use the technical term.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:43 AM on April 20, 2005

I say it's allergies.

I moved several states away when I was around 30. I suddenly began to feel tired all the time, no matter how much sleep I got. When I finally dragged myself in to see a doctor, she prescribed antihistamines. The problem cleared up instantly, then gradually returned over the next 5 years or so. I started allergy shots, and the problem gradually improved. Now, 3 years later, I'm mostly all better.

I didn't have any "typical" allergy symptoms, no runny nose or stuff like that, just an overwhelming lethargy no matter how much sleep I got. Try taking oer-the-counter Claritin for a few weeks to see if that helps.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:43 AM on April 20, 2005

I sleep better in bed alone. If you have a girlfriend, dump her ;)
posted by redteam at 8:43 AM on April 20, 2005

Everything I've read about sleep indicates that people generally need at least eight hours of sleep nightly if they wish to remain healthy. And, no, you don't "catch up" on your sleep by having lazy weekends.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:50 AM on April 20, 2005

I think it is totally psychological.

For a period of time I was working and living alone. I was highly motivated to stay up late talking with people because I needed that companionship. I still *had* to get up and go to work, so I did. When I moved in with my girlfriend the motivation to stay up late went away, so I got very very tired at about 11:00pm (you know, the time required to get 8 hours of sleep).

The same thing happens when I find a new game that is really engrossing. The key is that you need something really motivating to get you through a few minutes of the "oh god I am so tired" feeling, then you are fine again for another hour or two.

Of course pushing yourself like that is probably really bad for you in the long term...
posted by Chuckles at 9:03 AM on April 20, 2005

How to sleep less.
posted by euphorb at 9:34 AM on April 20, 2005

Basically, what languagehat said. Provided there are no extenuating circumstances (allergies, drugs, etc.) you need as much sleep as it takes to wake up rested. For some people that's four hours, for others it's ten hours (like me).

In opposition to what five fresh fish said, I've read that you can make up sleep provided that it's within a short period of time (a week or ten days or so). After that, you need to change something so you get more sleep.

Like Chuckles, when I've found something especially engrossing, I can get by on much less sleep. When I first started chatting online I got much less sleep. In one week (a work week - five days) I got 12 hours of sleep and in another it was 15. Definitely NOT enough sleep. I rearranged what I was doing in an evening and started getting about six hours a night. Still not really enough for me, but much better than three or four hours.
posted by deborah at 9:40 AM on April 20, 2005

It might simply be that you are waking at the wrong time in your sleep cycle. Check out the information on the Sleep Tracker Watch (I don't have one, but the review I read was very intriguing).
posted by clgregor at 10:06 AM on April 20, 2005 [2 favorites]

26. need at minimum nine hours myself.

some of us are just sleepyheads -- but i bet we live longer.
posted by fishfucker at 11:25 AM on April 20, 2005

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