Do you sleep 6 hrs a night or less?
February 5, 2006 10:50 AM   Subscribe

Do you sleep 6 hours a night (or less)?

Every book I've read on sleep says that, on average, people need 8 hours of sleep a night. They also say that this number varies from person to person, and that "short sleepers" are people who function perfectly on much less sleep.

I would really like to hear from people who sleep 6 hrs or less a night and feel completely rested during the day. AND who used to sleep more than that - could you please tell me how you learned to adjust to less sleep, and what it was like for you then and now?

posted by blahtsk to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I get about 4-5 hours of sleep a night, and wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. It was a change in dietary habits that did it for me. I stopped drinking coffee completely (made a huge difference in my quality of life) and stopped eating sugar, meat, and anything made with flour. Why did it make a difference? Damned if I know, but my uneducated guess would be that since my body doesn't have to work as hard digesting the loads of crap I used to put into it, it recovers more quickly and less sleep is needed. I didn't make the food changes in the hopes of needing less sleep, that was just a nice side benefit.

I've also noticed that if you eat right before you go to bed, you wake up feeling really lethargic and feeling very 'druggy'. If you stop eating about 5 hours before you go to bed, you may find you get by on less sleep.
posted by iconomy at 10:58 AM on February 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

I sleep about 6 hours a night, or less. I've never done an inventory of my sleep patterns, so this might be awkward, but: I usually fall asleep while doing something, eg. watching a movie or reading a book. I do not go to sleep at a consistent time every night, but I usually wake up around 7am. my sleep is deep and fairly difficult to disturb, even over short cycles like ~3 hrs. I rarely remember my dreams in the morning. When I wake up I am refreshed and usually happy to get out of bed on the first try.

this last bit used to be very different; a few years ago I didn't use (or snoozed) the alarm, and would sleep half the day away alarmingly often. I think it was because I was depressed, though. once I cleared that up, my sleep patterns pretty much went to the above description.

it wouldn't surprise me if "you need 8 hrs every night" is an average 'safe' figure, and I'd credit variation down to around 5 hrs/night. so if you're sleeping 6 hrs per night I don't think you should be too worried. that's plenty of time for a few sleep cycles, provided you're sleeping deep enough.

if you're lethargic during the day getting the sleep you do, look to some other factors about your morningtime and lifestyle. I've found that waking up properly (food, exercise, a little joy) is as important to my mood during the subsequent day as how I slept the night before. hope this helps.
posted by carsonb at 11:15 AM on February 5, 2006

posted by elisabeth r at 11:18 AM on February 5, 2006

I'm one of those people who just can't get to sleep before 2am. I'm a night owl, and forcing myself to go to sleep even at that late hour requires an act of will.

I usually wind up getting about 6 hours a night, and am not especially crabby in the morning. However, when I don't have to get up early for work, I'll often wind up getting closer to the normal 7-8 hours. This tells me that although my body wants 7-8, it can do pretty well on 6.

I do get tired after meals, so I try to eat a small lunch, usually consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables.

I echo the sentiment about staying away from coffee. It wreaks havoc with my circadian rhythm.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:29 AM on February 5, 2006

You can't train yourself to need less sleep. Short sleepers were born that way.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:07 PM on February 5, 2006

I normally sleep around 6 hours on a weekday - going to bed some time after 2, and waking sometime before 9. On a weekend (Friday, Saturday) I'll sleep 3/4ish until 1ish because, well, I can. I've found leaving a crack in the curtains so that when the sun comes up light will gradually shine on my face works to help get me up.
posted by Orange Goblin at 1:32 PM on February 5, 2006

ikkyu2, I respectfully disagree with you, though I know you base your response on sound medical knowledge. My admittedly anecdotal response is:

I was born a "long sleeper" - as a kid, teenager, and young adult, I slept as long as I could as often as I could: 9-10 hours a night, often longer. 18 hours was my record.

And then: grad school. I was so busy all the time that, regrettably, I had to dramatically cut the number of hours of sleep I got each night. 6 hours was a good night; 4 was not unheard-of. I didn't like it, but it became necessary.

There were other changes in my life around this time, too: I started exercising more regularly and eating better. Though I've never been a coffee drinker, I cut out caffeine in its Coca-Cola form: I used to drink a ton of that stuff, but, in grad school, cut it out nearly entirely.

These conditions obtained for five years or so.

The result is that, now that I am done with grad school, I need less sleep and get less sleep. I can function perfectly fine on 5 hours, and naturally wake up much earlier than I ever did as a younger fella. So, yeah, I think I did train myself to need less sleep. It was either that or flunk out of grad school. I can, when I have the time to do it, still sleep for long periods: 9-10 hours, sometimes. But, by and large, I get 6-7 hours of sleep per night (as well as 1-2 hours of exercise per day), and this works out quite well for me.
posted by Dr. Wu at 2:03 PM on February 5, 2006

Wasn't part of that just getting older, Dr. Wu? Children need more sleep than adults.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:11 PM on February 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

Yeah, that's probably part of it. But I do think that the single biggest factor was grad school and how it forced me to reprioritize pretty much everything.
posted by Dr. Wu at 2:19 PM on February 5, 2006

I get by on about 5 hours a night usually. I had always thought that I slept more when I was younger but I realized I used to just stay up a lot later. It wouldn't be unusual for me to be up to 5am on a weekend hacking on my Commodore 64 then I'd "sleep in" as my parents would put it to about 10 or 11 am.
posted by substrate at 2:39 PM on February 5, 2006

I need 7-8 nightly. With my sleep apnea though I probably only get 3.

Be warned that when asking people how much they sleep, the answers may be less than truthful. For some reason it's some sign of machismo and coolness to say that you need only three hours a sleep a night.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 3:15 PM on February 5, 2006

I sleep about 4-6 hours a night, but I do sometimes sleep in, getting about 7-9 occasionally on the weekends. I have always been a short sleeper-- my mother says that when I was a baby, I would only tantrum when it was bedtime, and that she'd find me standing in my crib hours later, looking around. I can remember being in elementary school and staring out the window, waiting for the sun to come up.

I don't know how bright-eyed and busy-tailed I am, though. I infact have rather dark-circled eyes. I seem to also have a lifelong case of the sniffles, punctuated by a real, full-blown cold/sinus infection/stomach bug/flu/whatever every 2-3 months. I intuitively connect my general lack of good health with my general sleep deprivation, and I believe that a good sleep schedule would help, but it just does not seem feasible/possible for my lifestyle and tendencies.
posted by lalalana at 3:45 PM on February 5, 2006

I get about 5-6 hours every weeknight, and about 7 on weekends. I don't feel like I need more - in fact, if I sleep for more than 7 hours or so, I feel more tired the next day. I sleep really deeply, I'm pretty healthy, I don't remember my dreams often, and I drink a pretty good amount of coffee daily.
posted by sluggo at 3:55 PM on February 5, 2006

I know several people who 'don't need' more than 6+ hours.

Invariably, all of them fall into one (or both) categories.

a) They have trouble staying awake at certain key times in the day.
b) They have no clue about their personality (particularly the lack of patience and/or rudeness).

Both of these two categories disappear with rest.
posted by filmgeek at 9:34 PM on February 5, 2006

I usually hit the hay around 2 or 3 and get up around 8. I've been sleeping through the alarm lately, but once I'm up I rarely feel the need to lay down and nap. I drink a lot of coffee, but I'm also a vegetarian. I'm not hugely active, but I probably end up walking a mile or more a day just in the due course of things.

If I sleep a lot, I feel gross. Not just tired, but depressed. Getting up early, bleary eyes and all, just feels better to me. My advice: Go to sleep when you feel tired, but get up at the same time everyday. It'll help your body set a schedule
posted by GilloD at 8:58 AM on February 6, 2006

I'll join the crowd of little sleepers. Though it's not the case anymore, I used to average 4-6 hours of sleep/weeknight in college. I didn't have much choice because of my job/school/social life/etc. OK, I did have some choice. Anyways, during those 2 years, I was fine and never really that tired. Fast-forward to 6 months removed from that situation where I can get virtually as much sleep as I want. If I get my old-school little sleep, I'm bushed the next day. Now that my body's used to it, I need at least 7 hours of sleep. For example, just last night, I only got 6 hours of sleep, and I'm dead tired.
posted by jmd82 at 9:02 AM on February 6, 2006

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