Watch out if you sleep too few hours so you can work more

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How much sleep do you need on average every day? For me it is now definitely more than 10 or 20 years ago. I thought about this since last night I slept only three and half hours. That is clearly below what I need on average.

 

Twenty years ago when I was in my early twenties, I could go on for weeks or months with only a few hours sleep per night. I remember a summer break from the university. I worked the whole summer in shop selling jeans where I normally only worked during the weekend.

 

That summer I worked 6 days a week and went out almost every night. That lasted two months and at the end of that summer, my eyes showed that sleeping 3 hours per night is not something that is sustainable for me.

 

About 20 years later, I had a very busy and demanding job and I could really need a few extra hours during the week. Looking back now I know of course that I went for the wrong solution. I should have evaluated how I spent my time and have focused on the most effective actions with long-term impact while working less.

 

I decided however to cut my sleep to 6 hours per night. At that moment I was probably sleeping sometimes 5, sometimes 6, sometimes 7 or 8 hours per night. It just depended on my travel schedule.

 

A few years earlier I read somewhere (I believe it was in a book called The Monk who sold his Ferrari) that you can teach yourself to sleep less. Just do it for 3 weeks and you train yourself to sleep just 5 hours per night or so. (Nonsense for me, but I will come back to that.) I did that then for a while and stopped. I am not sure why anymore.

 

OK. So here we are with a demanding job and an urgent need for a few extra hours in the week. I decided that 6 hours per night should be enough for me. And yes, it is correct that I could train my body to follow a schedule with 6 hours sleep per night. Regardless if I went to sleep at 11 or 12, I made sure that I put my alarm clock 6 hours later.

 

That went on for a few months. I slept less at night. But things didn’t go well. I could concentrate less at my job. I became tenser. I used almost every single moment of idle time to take a nap; in the car (when someone else was driving), in the plane (I was also not flying myself either) at lunch break, etcetera.

 

In the end I realized that sleeping just about 6 hours per night is not it for me. I can get myself used to a rhythm of sleeping that much but it does not do me any good. I increased my sleeping duration at night from 6 to 7 hours and all went much better. Now I know that I need 7 hours per night on average and preferably as regular as possible.

 

Of course, sometimes I sleep less like last night with only three and half hours. That is no problem and it is now just before 8 am when I am sitting here behind my laptop writing this article.

 

Getting this regular amount of sleep also means that I do not really need to catch up when I have a night less sleep. With my regular seven hours, I have reserves that I can use. I do not need more than seven hours per night on average and I know now since I have tried it that I should not have less than that. But I am happy with the experience I had since I know now that with these 7 hours I sleep as little as that is sustainable for me in the long run to function well.

 

How many hours sleep per night do you need at least on average?

 

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