Finding Your Required Amount of Sleep

November 25, 2020
Posted in Health
November 25, 2020 Zach Parcell

For years, it’s always been said you need to get eight hours of sleep on a nightly basis. That isn’t true for every human being. Age plays a role and your biology makes an impact. Sure, some people do need eight hours, but many don’t.

Finding the range of sleep that works the best for you can help you maintain that peak performance we’re always after while also learning how to manage your time around that sleep window.

Key Takeaways

  • Not everyone needs eight hours of sleep, but you do need at least six.
  • If you go to bed late, you still need a proper amount of sleep.
  • Aim for consistency.

Sleep Foundation Recommendations

The National Sleep Foundation has a study that shows the recommendations for the hours of sleep needed based on different age groups.

The study shows that from 18-64 years old, 7 to 9 hours of sleep is the recommended amount of daily sleep. 18-25 year olds may be able to go with as little as six hours of sleep or as high as 10-11. 26-64 year olds also carry the minimum amount of six hours, but limit at 10 hours as the maximum.

Average Sleep vs. Minimum Sleep

When you factor in your physical health, mental health, environment, external factors such as kids or pets, and sometimes what you ate that day, there are countless opportunities to impact your sleep in positive and negative ways. Many of these you cannot control.

If you’re aiming for a consistent amount of sleep, you should be aiming for a consistent average amount of sleep. It’s nearly impossible to aim for an exact amount of time, but if you can aim for consistency, the results will soon pay dividends.

While tracking my sleep habits, I’ve also learned what my true minimum sleep is. I’ve broken this into a few tiers:

  • 5 Hours: Can get through a workday, but will be very low energy by mid-afternoon.
  • 6 Hours: Will get through workday with ease, but tank will be empty by about 7:30 or 8 p.m.
  • 7 Hours: High focus, good productivity, not exhausted by the end of the day
  • 8 Hours: Completely recharged

I have found that six hours of sleep would be my true minimum. I can get by on five hours, but I do struggle. If I’m running out of energy by 8 p.m., that’s ok. I am known to work on some side projects after the day job comes to a close, but I can make time for that elsewhere.

If I’m able to average somewhere between six and seven hours of sleep in a night, I’ll feel pretty good. With two young kids, I haven’t been able to convince them that sleeping all night is a wonderful idea, and they should try it out sometime. Maybe one day.

How I Track My Sleep

For months now, I’ve used the Sleep Cycle app to track my sleep. Available for iOS and Android, Sleep Cycle uses either the phone’s microphone or accelerometer to track your sleep habits.

I trigger the start of the tracking as I get into bed and stop the tracking once my alarm goes off. The app has an alarm function itself, but I use the native iPhone alarm clock.

One of my favorite features of Sleep Cycle is who it actually graphs the different sleep cycles you may hit during your night’s rest. You might be in bed for 8 hours, but you’re actually asleep for just six of them. If you believe you go to bed at 10 p.m. and wake up at 6 a.m., you certainly aren’t getting eight hours of sleep. Sleep Cycle can really help showcase the true results which can tell you a story.

There are many ways you can track your sleep beyond Sleep Cycle including the Apple Watch which introduced some basic sleep tracking in watchOS 7.

Example Sleep Data

I’ve really tried to focus on getting consistent sleep. Having a daily refueled tank can ensure I can maintain momentum both at home and at work. After six months of tracking my sleep, here’s what I’ve learned…

Average Time Asleep

All data is marking the day of the week when you go to bed. Sunday means Sunday night into Monday morning.

  • Sunday: 6 hr 25 min
  • Monday: 6 hr 18 min
  • Tuesday: 6 hr 18 min
  • Wednesday: 6 hr 31 min
  • Thursday: 6 hr 38 min
  • Friday: 7 hr 4 min
  • Saturday: 7 hr 3 min

I do get a little more sleep on the weekends, but it has become very consistent which has helped my body adjust.

Average Time Going To Bed

  • Sunday: 9:52 p.m.
  • Monday: 9:54 p.m.
  • Tuesday: 9:57 p.m.
  • Wednesday: 9:48 p.m.
  • Thursday: 9:51 p.m.
  • Friday: 9:54 p.m.
  • Saturday: 9:52 pm.

Across the week, there is only a nine-minute window between the earliest and latest I go to bed. This is also part of training my mind and body when it is time to slow down for the night.

Night Owls Still Need Sleep

Personally, I’m a morning person. My alarm goes off at 5 a.m. and my day begins. Others are night owls and will be awake until midnight or early morning hours. Either approach is fine, but you still need that minimum amount of sleep.

You might have to do the math, but if you know you need to begin your day at 8 a.m. and you need at least an hour to shower, get dressed, and eat a little breakfast, then you need to be up and moving at 7 a.m. If you need seven hours of sleep, then you need to be asleep, not just in bed, at Midnight.

If you need to be awake at 5 a.m., then you certainly can’t go to bed at Midnight and expect to get seven hours of sleep unless you find a way to stop time for a bit.

Everyone Sleeps

Sleep could be the only thing that is done by every person in every part of the world regardless of gender, race, religion, socioeconomic status, or any other factor you can think of. We all sleep. Yes, some might sleep more comfortably than others and some might only be able to sleep for a very short amount of time, but we all do it.

Being able to get that consistent sleep that allows both your mind and body to recharge is key to making the most out of the day ahead.

When we talk about the 168 hours you have in a week, it’s easy to focus on the 16-18 hours that we are awake every day. Those remaining 6-8 hours are arguably the most important. If you screw those up, good luck with the hours remaining in a day.

Put some effort into finding that minimum amount of sleep you need and adjusting your daily schedule and routine around that. If done right, everything else is much easier since you aren’t fighting an uphill battle every day.

Zach Parcell

Zach is a 35-year-old midwestern husband, father, son, gummy bear loving, digital communication professional. Zach has spent endless hours researching lifehacks, strategies, resources, tools, examples, and more in order to be a better person in the office and at home.

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