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How important is it to get 8 hours of sleep?

ee33eeee33ee Registered User Posts: 644 Member
edited March 2008 in Parent Cafe
Understanding teenagers' sleep habits

I was always under the impression that sleep deprivation would have only transitory, superficial effects on brain function, such as temporary drowsiness or impairment.

However, that article states that the brain "grows", or "learns, during the LAST stage of the sleep cycle, which should ideally last 9.5 hours for teenagers.


Anyways, I was wondering how accurate this information is. I know plenty of intelligent, charismatic, overachieving people who get far, far less than 9.5 hours a night (and therefore should completely "skip" the whole learning phase of sleep?). I mean... the whole culture behind highly ambitious people, from college students who pull all-nighters to i-bankers who work 100 hours/week, suggest that these people actually thrive on sleep deficiencies.

I know that when I do get a lot of sleep, I can become just as lethargic as when I'm undersleeping, and furthermore, it makes me calm and lazier :)

I am a little worried now, because sleep deprivation has become a habit for me, and now I find out that I might be causing long-term harm.
Post edited by ee33ee on

Replies to: How important is it to get 8 hours of sleep?

  • Lafalum84Lafalum84 Registered User Posts: 7,532 Senior Member
    Well maybe these "intelligent, charismatic, overachieving people" would be even more intelligent or overachieving if they got enough sleep. ;-)

    Seriously, lack of sleep has been linked to heart disease, poor immune response, and other health risks. People suffering from sleep apnea are now being discovered to be at much higher risk for stroke, heart disease and other illnesses. Sleep is important for all phases of health. I think science has overlooked this in the past, and given the new research I think that sleep will be given much more attention in the future.

    Also I know personally that my brain does not function nearly as well when I am sleep-deprived.
  • Columbia_StudentColumbia_Student Registered User Posts: 5,046 Senior Member
    ^overweight also.
  • yourworldyourworld - Posts: 759 Member
    I go thru 6 month cycles of 6 hr sleep every night and found my mental capacity is in hyper-drive when I am sleep deprived. Then when I get my normal 8 hrs, I am less productiive in the mental dept.

    I think it maybe because I only do 8 hrs when I am on break or vacation, its an abnomaly to the my normal pattern and my brains didn't know what to do.
    Or is it when I am tired, my brain fight tougher to stay alert and over-compensates ?

    Medical experts, can you offer any explanation ?
  • Columbia_StudentColumbia_Student Registered User Posts: 5,046 Senior Member
    Sometimes it does feel like you are less productive when you get lots of sleep but your body needs it for repair. At least that is my theory.
  • deenierahdeenierah Registered User Posts: 416 Member
    well, when i run on less sleep, i counter that with caffeine, which makes me WIRED-- a.k.a. quick-thinking/productive.
  • Roger_DooleyRoger_Dooley Founder Posts: 106,392 Senior Member
    Actually, there's some good research on the topic. I just finished reading a review copy of a book called Brain Rules by John Medina, which has a whole chapter on sleep. (It will release in a week or so.)

    There's a section called "Sleep Loss = Brain Drain". Here's a quote:
    ...a highly successful student can be set up for a precipitous academic fall, just by adjusting the number of hours she sleeps. Take an A-student used to scoring in the top 10 percent of virtually anything she does. One study shoed that if she gets just under seven hours of sleep on weekdays, and about 40 minutes more on weekends, she will begin to score in the bottom 9 percent of non-sleep-deprived individuals. Cumulative losses during the week add up to cumulative deficits during the weekend - and, if not paid for, that sleep debt will be carried into the next week.

    There's a lot of good info in there, and it's backed up by solid research. I was convinced enough to try and get more than my usual 6 hours... very limited success with that, so far. :(

    Pulling an all-nighter causes something like 30% reduction in cognitive ability, as I recall - that would explain why staying up all night to study for a test never seemed to work all that well. ;)
  • SusantmSusantm Registered User Posts: 2,188 Senior Member
    I think a certain amount depends upon the individual. My husband sleeps really soundly and is fine with 7 hours sleep. I wake several times during the night, and I have always needed 8 hours to feel really rested. (not that I always get that amount) My older son rarely slept more than 8 hours a night, even as a baby and just doesn't seem to need that much sleep, whereas my other son slept as much as he could during high school and still, in college, tries to get at least 8 hours a night.

    Some people need more sleep than others, and some people get higher quality sleep than others, and those both make a difference. Studies can figure out the average amount of sleep needed, but can't tell an individual what is necessary for him or her.
  • BunsenBurnerBunsenBurner Registered User Posts: 32,752 Senior Member
    Lack of sleep has been linked to body's inability to manage insulin efficiently according to a recent PNAS publication (here is the summary from Medline):

    MedlinePlus: Lack of Deep Sleep Raises Diabetes Risk
  • jessiehljessiehl Registered User Posts: 3,328 Senior Member
    It is very important to get enough sleep for your body. People underestimate how much it affects their function.

    But everyone's body is different. Not everyone is, say, 5'6". Not everyone wears the same size shoe. So why should we think that everyone needs 8 hours of sleep a night? Some people don't need that much. Some people need more.

    The point about quality of sleep is important. I'm another restless sleeper, and I tend to need more sleep to feel okay than friends who sleep more soundly.
  • NovelistoNovelisto Registered User Posts: 2,955 Senior Member
    If you have trouble getting enough sleep, it may be your room. The brain, as more studies are showing, needs absolute dark to reach it's maximum rest. Even a little light, a night light for instance, can prevent you from passing into the deeper restorative realms of sleep.

    A recent study found that night-shift workers have a greater incidence of certain cancers/heart disease than those who sleep at night, even if the night-shift workers get as many hours of sleep as the day-workers. Right now, they are looking at light as the culprit...that strange things happen in the body when people reverse 'normal' human sleep patterns. So get those room-darkening shades, hunt out a sleep mask, add a white-noise machine while you're at it, and start snoozing.

    Night Shift Work May Heighten Risk for Cancer
  • KeshiraKeshira Registered User Posts: 1,148 Senior Member
    7.5 hours would be better because each sleep cycle is 90 minutes on average.

    Apparently mine is either 100-101.6 or 84.7-85.7 minutes, and I can't figure out which. But I am more awake when I calculate my sleep with either number than when I just sleep the maximum time possible (which is usually 8 hours) so... whatever?
  • MarianMarian Registered User Posts: 12,548 Senior Member
    Despite everything you hear about college students keeping absurd hours and having wild night lives, there is a substantial portion of the college population who think that one of the great benefits of college is that they can actually get enough sleep -- something that was often impossible in high school because they had to catch school buses at 6 AM.
  • 2331clk2331clk Registered User Posts: 1,656 Senior Member
    It makes you wonder, when that severely sleep deprived medical resident or intern is stitching you up in the ER, or worse, cutting you open. I believe medical training programs are now restricting consecutive work hours, thank goodness.

    Regarding teenagers, they have a later sleep cycle in general, which runs counter to school schedules. My D was OK w/ less sleep, but S wasn't and his grades showed the effect in hs. It was torture (for all of us) trying to get him up in the morning. And he hit that vicious cycle later in hs...come home from hs totally exhausted, only to take a deep afternoon nap---then couldn't fall asleep till late that night... and exhausted again the next morning. College was much better. Scheduled later classes, even night classes and performed far better.

    I hated to see him drive himself to school senior year, in a fog like that. He later told me he actually "woke up" around lunchtime.
This discussion has been closed.