Today’s technology has made it easier than ever before to learn intimate details about the lives of strangers. Every waking moment, we have the power to compare our daily routines to everyone else’s on the web.
One topic of comparison that seems to be always circulating in the media is sleep. We constantly ask our friends, our doctors and above all our bot overlords, “How much sleep do I need, actually?”
It’s astounding how many people feel entitled to advise strangers on how much to sleep. A few of them have valuable insights to offer, most don’t, and none of them can know how your body and mind truly feel like you do.
So instead of looking for someone else to answer our sleep questions, maybe we should focus on learning how to evaluate our own sleep. Then we can decide for ourselves how many zzz’s we need, and how to get the most out of them.
Am I sleep deprived or over-sleeping?
There are several key symptoms that signal a little too much shut-eye. They include fatigue, brain fog, memory loss and weight gain.
Sound familiar? That’s because the signs of sleeping too much are surprisingly similar to symptoms of sleep deprivation. So how can you tell one problem from the other?
If you find yourself waking up with little energy after sleeping for longer than you usually do, you may be surpassing your body’s supported sleep threshold. At that point, more sleep can drag you down instead of building you up.
On the other hand, if you’re not getting enough sleep, your body will demand energy from other sources – meaning you’ll be hungry a lot more often.
Here’s why sleep quizzes and calculators don’t know how much you need.
Online “How long should I sleep?” tools can give you general tips on what works for most people. But you can’t expect a bot to know what’s right for you personally just because you answered a few questions. Relying on quizzes, or “Sleep chart by age range” websites, means never getting the specific information you need to make the best plan for you.
That’s because how much sleep we need is influenced by all kinds of factors, including our lifestyle habits, what we’re already accustomed to and even genetics.
How much sleep do I need then?
The only reliable way to gauge what range of sleep times works for you is to observe your sleep patterns over a period of at least several weeks. During this period, consistently ask yourself, “How did I sleep?” and “How do I feel?” Let your body speak, and it will tell you what you need to know.
Psst… Here is a handy sleep tracker diary to help you record your sleep patterns and moods over a two-week period.
Okay, so now I know what I should do. How do I do it?
Once you have a better idea how much sleep you need, you arrive at the real battle – adhering to your new sleep schedule on a daily basis.
Matthew Walker, author of the international bestseller Why We Sleep, points out that “Sleep is the greatest life support system you could ever wish for.” With that in mind, it should be pretty compelling to stay responsible for our sleep habits.
Still, with all the unpredictability of everyday life, it’s easy to drift. Here are some winning strategies to help you stay on track.
These two big tips will help you elevate your sleep game.
- Start by setting a time to mark the end of your working day.
From that big project at the office to catching up with emails or the laundry, your work will never end. There will always be something else you think you could or should do. Letting this endless to-do list cloud your mind right up until you go to bed is the enemy of regenerative sleep.
Find the time that works for you to shut down in the evening and meet that deadline every single day. After some conditioning, your mind and body will intuitively know when to switch on, and when it’s time to relax.
Remember, unwinding is a feature of our being, part of the mechanism that makes us tick. We shouldn’t be ashamed of it!
- Wake up and go to bed at the same hour every day.
Yes, this includes Saturday and Sunday, and no, you can’t compensate for weekday sleep deprivation by snoozing until noon on weekends.
Regulating our sleep times trains our minds to distinguish when we need to perform from when we need to rest. We sleep better, and our ability to organize our thoughts and wholeheartedly focus during the day improves as well. #winner
And lastly… One important celebrity sleep myth – busted!
Even after you make your own sleep plan, it still might be tempting to look to successful people for clues on how much sleep you should really get. Well, no help there. It turns out that the sleep habits of well-known entrepreneurs, celebrities and CEOs vary just as much as everyone else’s.
SleepZoo.com founder Chris Zoo cautions, “While you hear stories about successful business people only needing to sleep four hours a night, rest assured that’s not the norm.”
So yeah, don’t take the old “you snooze you lose” saying literally.
Don’t believe it? Take a look for yourself:
- Arianna Huffington, Founder of The Huffington Post, founder and CEO of Thrive Global: 8 hours per night
- Bill Gates, Co-founder of Microsoft: 7 hours per night
- Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group: 5-6 hours per night
- Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon: 8 hours per night
- Elon Musk, Founder and CEO of SpaceX, Tesla, Neuralink, The Boring Company, OpenAI and PayPal : 5-6 hours per night
- Peter Thiel, Founder of PayPal, Palantir Technologies and Founders Fund: 6-7 hours a night
- Dwayne (“The Rock”) Johnson, American wrestler, actor, producer: 3-5 hours a night
It’s pretty hard to draw a strong conclusion from that, except maybe that we should all hate The Rock for looking that good on that little sleep. But on a serious note, the habits of the rich and famous just confirm what sleep experts tell us: Everyone requires a different amount of sleep.
So stay responsible, aware of what your own body needs, and learn to defend these sacred and important hours every single day.