Is it ok to only get 5 hours of sleep?

Sometimes life calls and we don't get enough sleep. However, getting five hours of sleep on a 24-hour day isn't enough, especially in the long run. If you can't sleep more than four to five hours a night (or less), you may be sleep-deprived. In addition, regular interruptions in sleep due to things such as night terrors or the onset of sleep can also cause lack of sleep.

If you only sleep 6 hours and still feel good every morning, you might feel like you have a hidden superpower. However, research has shown that while some people may say they feel well rested after sleeping 6 hours, they are more sleep-deprived than they think. Do you think you can survive on five hours of sleep a night? While it might be possible, it could increase the risk of developing multiple chronic diseases and of dying sooner, according to a new study. Researchers found that adults age 50 and older who slept five hours or less a night had a higher risk of developing more than one chronic illness compared to their peers who slept seven hours.

The findings were published on October 18 in the open access journal PLoS Medicine. For example, if you need less than six hours of sleep each night and you don't have symptoms of lack of sleep, you probably don't have insomnia. Evidence shows that adults need seven to eight hours of sleep each night, and regularly sleeping less than five hours a night is linked to cardiovascular problems and poor immune health. Nor do you have to go from a 5-hour sleep habit to your actual need to sleep overnight, especially with existing work and social obligations that may be difficult to modify in your schedule.

Sleeping just five hours means that you don't meet your biological need for sleep, an individual trait determined genetically, such as height or eye color. In fact, sleeping one hour less for 10 consecutive nights will cause your brain to deteriorate as much as it would if you had been awake for a full 24 hours, although it's quite possible that you don't feel that way. In one notable study, researchers asked 48 participants to sleep 4, 6 and 8 hours for two weeks, while another group was deprived of sleep for three consecutive days. An insufficient night's sleep may not seem harmful in the long run, but when you're used to sleeping less than 6 hours, the consequences of cumulative lack of sleep can sneak up.

So, even if you wake up feeling like you've had enough sleep with just 6 hours of sleep, you probably don't realize the negative effects of sleeping so little because you're used to it. Unlike lack of sleep, people with short sleep syndrome (SSS) usually need less than six hours of sleep a night and can continue to function normally. But keep in mind that life tends to put obstacles in our way, which can disrupt your regular sleep schedule and increase your sleep debt for up to more than five hours. However, sleep magazines and public health officials almost universally recommend getting eight hours of sleep a night, and if not that, at least seven hours.

Contrary to your plan of sleeping less to do more, lack of sleep prevents you from productively using those extra waking hours. Short sleep syndrome describes people who can function normally on less than six hours of sleep each night. For example, not sleeping for 24 hours affects cognition to the point of having a blood alcohol level (BAC) of 0.10%, which is higher than the legal limit in all states. Eventually, fewer hours of sleep will need to be replaced with more hours of sleep in the coming nights.

Tammi Ludlum
Tammi Ludlum

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