Hands up how many of us don’t get eight hours sleep a night?
I’m betting right now, there’s probably a lot of hands up in the air. But don’t panic just yet; not having eight hours doesn’t always have to be a worry.
Back in the 19th Century, the labour movement in Britain coined the phrase ‘Eight hours labour, Eight hours recreation, Eight hours rest’ – which I think is fair to say is a mantra I wish I could live by but realistically it doesn’t work for everyone.
We’re often asked how much we should sleep and our answer is always the same: there is no magic number. While it’s become a fairly general consensus that around seven to eight hours is the average, it’s important not to get hung up on that number.
Everyone’s requirements are different – some of us cope far better on less than others while others need more. Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher are two prime examples who swore they just got by on four hours of sleep a night (although we know Churchill was a consummate napper!). One size definitely doesn’t fit all, so if you feel okay, stop worrying that you haven’t had enough.
Yes as a nation we aren’t sleeping as well as we used to. And we can blame our busy lifestyles, our addiction to gadgets etc for that but, a little less sleep isn’t a problem. However if you do find yourself regularly getting less than six hours a night and are exhausted the next day, then it might be time to overhaul your sleep and lifestyle habits.
Research has found that those who frequently get fewer than six hours a night are at significantly increased risk of stroke and heart disease, with evidence that not sleeping enough may ramp up the ‘fight or flight’ response to stress, releasing hormones that speed up heart rate and raise blood pressure.
Not only are there increased health risks with routinely sleeping less than six hours but also research has also shown it impacts on attention, concentration and memory in most people. However if you sleep for six hours and feel fine the next day then you probably are getting enough.
How much sleep do you get? Do you worry that you’re not getting enough?