Proved: 8 Hour Sleep Is Not Optimal

Eight hours - Where did that come from?

Right from our childhood, it has been drilled within our minds that eight hours of sleep is the optimal amount of sleep that each one of us must get every single night.

We were expected to go to bed by a certain ordered time and to be awake by a certain ordered time, every single day. Even a grumpy little request like “mom, but, umm just half more hour of TV please” was not acceptable.

The eight hour mantra has been chanted repeatedly to the extent that it has now been ingrained in our minds that anything slightly less than eight or nine hour of sleep equates to negative consequences like mood swings, low immunity, illnesses, hunger pangs, sleep debt, low energy, fat gain, death and on goes the list.

So I assumed if eight hours of sleep is so stressed upon and considered so essential, some really accurate and powerful studies must be backing it. So I headed over to the Internet search engines to read more about it and to find out where this age old piece of wisdom stems from.

And I did spend a couple of days reading, not about the  studies I was interested to find out more about, but rather searching for at least one concrete study to exist which proved that eight hours is the most optimal duration of sleep for everybody. But all I managed to find out was vague recycled sentences like:

- “Studies say teens need 10 hours of sleep a day whereas adults need close to 8”
- “For most adults the optimal sleep time is 7-8 hours”
- “Lack of sleep affects cognitive function. You should aim for at least 8 or 9 hours of sleep as suggested by studies”

And none! I mean literally none of these sites which use the word “studies” to support their claim, ever linked to the actual study. Not one of them bothered linking to the study on which they base their entire claim.

Anyone who has ever questioned things like why we sleep, how much sleep we need to function optimally, why we need exactly eight hours or what happens if we don’t get our eight hours each night knows the answer is not as easy as one might assume it to be.

Six year study Shows correlation between more sleep and increased death rate 

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine and the American Cancer Society collaborated on a study, which appeared in the February 15, 2002 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, a journal of the American Medical Association.

The impressive study was conducted on over one million adults ranging from the ages of 30 to 120 over a course of six years. And what they found out was something contrary to the popular eight hour myth.

The study found out that people who sleep for only 6 or 7 hours a night had lower death rate than those who slept for 8 hours or more, and also from those who slept 4 hours or less.

Even those who slept for 5 hours a day lived longer than those who slept for 8 hours a day.

Read the entire study here

Hence we can conclude the following:

1. Although there is no evidence to support the myth of 8 hours of sleep being the ideal sleep time, there is some research backing up the statement saying that sleeping less can actually be more beneficial.

2. It is also possible to draw the conclusion that the study correlates weak constraints i.e. maybe people who are more healthy need less sleep and hence they also live more. But this again further proves my initial statement that, 8 hours is not the optimal sleep time for everyone.

3. If the correlation showed in the study is accurate, it proves that you do not need 8 hours of sleep to function optimally. You will actually function better on lower sleep.

Will I die sooner on a polyphasic sleep cycle?

If you read the above linked study correctly, a particular line should have caught your attention.

"Individuals who sleep 8 hours or more, or less than 4 hours a night, were shown to have a significantly increased death rate"

Now, why would I post such a study on a site that teaches you to sleep for only two hours a day?

I expect these questions to come from the general readers rather than those already acquainted with polyphasic sleeping.

The first thing that you have to realize is that, sleep is not uniform in nature and that it consists of various stages of REM and NREM stages of sleep.

So whenever any statement or accusation related to the consequences of sleep deprivation is talked about, 99.99% of the participants in these studies are people who sleep monophasically. The pattern of sleep stages during polyphasic sleeping are different than the pattern of sleep stages during monophasic sleeping. Those who sleep like me, like Steve Pavlina or Tim Ferriss or the other sleep hackers out there are never a part of these studies nor have any concrete studies ever been performed on sleep hackers alone.

Hence, whenever you read anything related to sleep deprivation, keep in mind that you are reading about your everyday nine hour sleeping Joes and Janes. The polyphasic sleeper’s internal sleep process is different than the average monophasic sleeper’s. Read more about it here.

About the Author

Pulsify / Creator & Editor

I sleep less and live more. Read more about me here