cognitive behavioral therapy for insomniainsomnia

Debunking the 8 hour sleep myth

By August 26, 2019 No Comments
Most people when told that they need to sleep at least 8 hours per night do not object. It seems pretty reasonable. Sleep is rejuvenating and refreshing and it seems intuitively as more sleep must be even better for your health. So 8 hours may very well be the optimal amount to live the best and longest.

How about if your read a recommendation from the national council of nutrition saying:

Make sure you get at least 2200 calories per day.

I think most peoples spontaneous reaction would be: Wait a minute, that depends on a lot of things doesn’t it? Of course it does! If you are tall and muscular you will need more calories than if you are short and lean. If you are a professional athelete you may need 3000 calories and if you are sedentary 1500 may be enough.

Everyone knows that how much food you need depends on a variety of things, and you know what: How much sleep you need is just the same.

Some people are natural long sleepers and need 9 or even 10 hours of sleep while others are short sleepers and do the best on 5-6 hours. It is true that most people seem to do best on around 7 hours just as for most people need a bit over 2000 calories to maintain their weight. However numerous things affect how much sleep or food we need.

So where does the notion that we need to sleep at least 8 hours come from? I’m not sure. I am going to start asking people where they heard this. I brought this up at work and a colleague of mine said that maybe the pharmaceutical industry is promoting this so they can sell more sleeping pills. I can’t say I have come across anything to back this up. Maybe other parts of the sleep industry like sleep researchers and people producing content like books/blogs/articles on sleep and need to highlight it’s importance are to be blamed. Maybe it came from god knows where and people were just very receptive to the idea.

In that latter case, why do people seem not to question that they need at least 8 hours of sleep when they would question somebody saying that everyone needs at least 2200 calories per day or have at least 2 bowel movements per day?

I think these are important things to know if we are to sucessfully debunt the 8 hour sleep myth.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer in the power of sleep and I want everyone in the whole entire world to sleep the best and most they can. However, nothing good comes out of people trying to sleep more than they can for reasons that are not real. If someone who is a natural 7 hour sleeper tries to sleep 8 hours because they think sleeping less than this is going to cause cancer then the seeminly innocent recommendation of how important sleep is is not making the world a better place, rather the opposite.

As always please share your thoughts and if you also believe that sleep is super important for quality of life but that it is a myth that everyone needs 8 hours or more: Spread the word!