Science puts us in a bind: getting too little sleep seriously harms health.
It has always been said that people must sleep at least 6 hours if we do not want to compromise our health and well-being. In fact, experts have long recommended that you need to sleep between 6 and 8 hours to perform better the next day and not suffer the effects of lack of sleep.
However, a recent study has shown that sleeping 6 hours is not necessarily good for the human body and can even be as bad as no sleep in terms of cognitive performance.
Sleeping 6 hours could be just as bad as not sleeping
These results could therefore indicate that the advice that experts have given us for so many years was not correct. This study was published in the Journal Sleep and involved 48 adult subjects who had their sleep time restricted. Some participants slept four, others six, and another eight hours for two weeks. The research also involved another group of subjects who went three days in a row without sleeping.
In order to obtain the results, the participants were examined every two hours regarding their cognitive performance (unless they were asleep, of course), as well as their reaction time, their level of sleep, the symptoms they experienced and also responded to questions about your mood.
The conclusions of the study were clear. Subjects who were able to sleep for six hours at night performed just as poorly as those individuals who were forced to stay awake for three days in a row.
The reason six hours of sleep is not enough
What is clear from this research is that the 8 hours of sleep that have always been recommended are ideal for greater performance. It is also clear that subjects who sleep only four hours a night accumulate a sleep deficit and worsen each day.
As for the study subjects who slept 6 hours, despite the fact that during the first days they showed normal cognitive performance, after a few days they began to show a decline in performance. In fact, their performance was just as bad as those who hadn’t slept in three days. However, one of the most striking results was that the group of subjects who slept six hours did not seem to have the same perception of sleep as the people who had not slept in three days.
Performance decreases after a few days
The former did not classify the fact of having slept that number of hours as something negative, nor did they claim to feel drowsy. On the contrary, the subjects who had not slept in three days did perceive that they were much more tired. This seems to indicate that getting six hours of sleep may not leave us as tired as not sleeping, yet cognitive performance is still just as bad as not sleeping at all.
Now, sleeping four hours is even worse than sleeping six hours, as the performance of these participants worsens every day. In the case of 6 hours of sleep, it is from the tenth day when they begin to lose their faculties.
We do not know how many hours we sleep
It seems, therefore, that a difference of two hours of sleep causes a quite considerable drop in performance, and surely there are many people who do not sleep their 8 hours a day and who may be suffering these effects. Another curious research, this time carried out by the University of Chicago, affirms that people do not know how many hours they sleep. That is, they might believe that they sleep seven hours and are actually sleeping six.
The results of this research show that people overestimate their sleep time, and are wrong by 0.8 hours on average.
Changing sleep habits is a difficult task
Experts have been warning for a long time that it is necessary to carry out a series of habits that help us sleep better. Practicing physical exercise, turning off the television before going to bed or reducing alcohol consumption are some examples. If it is already difficult to adopt these habits, it is more difficult to transform your behavior if you do not know that you need to change habits to improve your cognitive performance.
One factor heavily influenced by sleep experts is weight reduction for better sleep. Obesity has a strong correlation with insomnia and sleep apnea, as stated in a study by the National Sleep Foundation of the United States. There are many investigations that affirm that obese workers perform less at work and are less productive than those who are not.
Habits for better sleep
In reality, there are many factors that intervene when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep: stress at work, problems with your love relationship or drinking stimulating drinks at night
And it is that sleeping well is decisive for our health and, as you have seen, it affects performance in different fields, such as school or work. Now, you can adopt a series of habits that help you sleep better. Which are?
1. Take care of the environment. For example: using a comfortable pillow and mattress and not watching TV before going to bed.
2. Do not eat large meals at night, as they can make sleep difficult.
3. Don’t take stimulants when bedtime approaches.
4. Do physical exercise and improve physical condition.
5. Do not take a nap to avoid feeling too clear at night.
6. Follow a schedule for going to bed and getting up.
- You can delve into these habits and learn more about them in our article: ” 10 basic principles for good sleep hygiene “