1 Million People Agree – Sleeping for 5 Hours is Better Than 8
By: Dave Asprey
April 7, 2011
You’ve heard it before: “Everyone needs 8 hours sleep per night.”
Well, a study out of UCSD paints a different story. The 2010 paper instead suggests that the secret to a long life lies in getting just enough sleep, which ends up being about 6.5 hours per night.
The study looks at 1.1 million people’s sleep patterns over the course of 6 years, tracking the amount of sleep each subject averaged alongside their longevity. Two major findings were:
- Sleeping as little as 5 hours per night can be better for you than sleeping 8.
- Insomnia is better for you, long-term health-wise than taking sleeping pills.
How much sleep do you really need?
The study, run by Dr. Daniel F. Kripke an MD and Professor of Psychiatry specializing in sleep research and aging, didn’t find any statistical health-related reason to sleep longer than 6.5 hours per night.
Data that he used from the Cancer Prevention Study II (CPSII) from the American Cancer Society even shows that sleeping about 5 hours per night is slightly safer than sleeping 8. In this case, we’ll go ahead and define “safer” as “not dying.”
The data is impressive. It covers 1.1 million participants, and it is the first large-scale population study that correlates sleep with longevity while taking into account things like age, diet, exercise, health problems and smoking.
The data is from 1982-1988 because it took years to input the data and perform analysis on it.
I’m not sure where the sleep-8-hours-per-night myth came from, but it’s totally wrong. You can file it away under old information, along with the eat-fewer-calories-to-lose-weight myth.
And if you thought those pharmaceutical sleeping pills were helping – time to reconsider. The study also found that sleeping pills correlated with dying earlier, but insomnia did not. That means you’re better off suffering through some sleepless nights rather than popping pills.
With all the biohacking I’ve done over the years, I’m able to thrive on about 2.5 hours of sleep per night and be fully functional the next day without needing to “catch up” on sleep. That said, the data from this study has me convinced that 5 hours per night is better for longevity and long-term performance.
I’m certain that I can put my body in more restorative sleep stages using technology, and that it’s probably safe to do it for longer periods, but I’d like some more data on that before I do it all the time!
Understanding your sleeping habits
Just about everyone including doctors, health experts, and athletes agree, sleep is critical. Here are just a few studies that prove just that:
The mental benefits
- One night of good sleep can improve your ability to learn new motor skills by 20%.
- Quality sleep increases your ability to gain new insight into complex problems by 50%.
The physical benefits
- Good sleep promotes skin health and a youthful appearance.
- Sleep increases testosterone levels.
- Sleep controls optimal insulin secretion.
- Sleep encourages healthy cell division (helps prevent cancer).
- Sleep increases athletic performance.
So if sleep is so awesome, why get less of it? The short answer is: it’s the quality of your sleep that matters, not the quantity. Poor quality sleep can make you fat, weak, and stupid.
If you find that you need a ton of sleep, your body is telling you that there’s something wrong. Stress, over-exercising, and bad nutrition habits are all common reasons your body might want more of your hours to sleep at night. That’s where biohacking comes to the rescue.
Hacking your sleep
I have written extensively about getting good, high-quality, restful sleep. Good sleep will help you lose weight, build muscle, and live longer, all while suppressing appetite and improving your mood.
Unfortunately, our busy and stressful lives have made it difficult to get the restful sleep we human beings are designed for, and as a result, we are tired, depressed, and our bodies simply aren’t working right.
The Bulletproof Diet philosophy isn’t to get more hours of sleep but to concentrate on the quality of your sleep. I’ve been hacking my sleep and performance for years and have made every mistake possible.
Lucky for you, I documented the most powerful sleep hacks (and a few mistakes along the way).
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