Sleep, a hotly contested topic today that borders on what is the ideal sleepingtime a person should spend in a day. Many have been in the debate about sleeping hours especially students who hotly contest in it. I have been in a position where I slept an average of 5 hours every day during school time. My peers normally sleep for 8-10 hours and told me countlessly that it is recommended we sleep for 8 hours and many cannot understand how I manage to sleep late and rise up early. No matter the amount of sleep you get, you should understand the importance of sleep. Just to point out, my sleeping time varies.
I have not been able to provide an answer to how much sleep we can survive on as I come from a community where we sleep an average of 6 hours and during school time, we can read for a long time in what we call ‘all-night’ which means spending your sleeping hours reading (normally between the hours of 11am to 5.30am). To do this, you have to have slept before all-night and sometimes, you might take a rest for 2-3 hours if you are very tired.
Certainly, this messes up with your sleeping pattern and it is very difficult to be consistent in this. I do not know how I managed to do this but I did to be honest. I read about successful CEOs of Fortune 500 companies sleeping an average of 4-5 hours each day and rising before 6am even though they went to bed by 1am. This alone put me on the front pedal and always gave me reasons to continue coupled with the fact that I am a morning person and I am more productive during this spell.
I cannot deny the benefits of all-night as everyone is asleep and you get a serene environment where you can focus your thoughts and be more productive. You get the feel the joy of working hard when others are sleeping. Working in the night can be difficult and you might understand this if you have ever done night shift in a factory or a store. It can be very draining as you get to think of sleeping if the job is boring or you are doing what you don’t enjoy. When you enjoy what you do, then this is a different case all together. Let me also stress that there are disadvantages of working all-night as you get to burn more calories, sleep might resurface during a shift, you feel lost as you think of how strenuous the job is and that you could be sleeping and this could be more discouraging if you are a morning person.
It takes time for us to adapt and change our patterns and body clock. You get to force yourself to sleep so you could be active for the night work and you have to carry food with you as I get hungry frequently at night and I know I am not the only one in this situation.
Now, unto the reason for today’s post, how many hours of sleep is ideal for you?
Get ready for a shock
According to the BBC website, an article was published that said that the eight-hour sleep may unnatural due to a growing body of scientific and historic evidence from experiments conducted in the early 90s. people slept in batches of 4-2-4 hours when forced to experience darkness for 14 hours in a month and the sleep scientific community was reported to be happy with this but this might sound vague to the general public of western world who think eight-hour sleep is the norm. history evidence as published by Roger Ekirch on research done for sixteen years found people slept twice in a day with data also coming from Nigeria. The people involved normally slept for one to two hours in the evening and sleeping later at night. I normally do this and I want to state here I normally wake up having more energy to finish the day especially when I had a tiring day. He found that this practise of sleeping twice disappeared in the late 17th century due to western influence and by 1920, people no longer entertained sleeping twice in a day. This might be attributed to improvements in people’s standard of living such as presence of street lights, industrial revolution, and increased coffee influence.
I must say that people especially in the western world are now used to an eight-hour sleep which has become second nature. Gregg Jacobs, a sleep psychologist, noted that most people normally wake up during this time which could also be seen as part of nature’s way to tell people about two sets of sleeping periods that happened in the past and also reminding them that it might be unnatural. He said that in the past, this awake-time could serve as a means of dealing with stress and meditating on dreams and also went on to say that this is no longer the case today leading to a more stressed and anxious society.
Going on to the stages of sleep:
I am a deep sleeper and when I read about this, I was intrigued. I can sleep so deep that you can literally take me to a different city but it is changing a little bit now.
Every 1-2 hours, we go through four different crucial sleep cycles:
- Cycle 1 is a relaxed state between being awake and sleeping where you are drowsy and breathing slowly and your muscles are relaxed.
- Cycle 2 is when you go deeper into sleep but you might be kind of aware of your surrounding and awake. Many people belong to this category but not me, lol.
- Cycle 3 and 4 kind of goes together and I belong here. We in this category don’t wake up easily as we are in deep sleep and can only wake up when the body feels it is the right time. This state is characterised by having the lowest amount of activity.
- REM (rapid eye movement): After cycle 3 and 4, we can move over to cycle 2 and enter what scientists call ‘Dream Sleep’. This state can be also called REM sleep which happens when you dream.
Most sleep researchers divide this into two broad classes: non-REM (includes cycle 1 to 4 listed above) and REM.
Why do we feel sleepy?
In another article published by the BBC, it was stated that scientist thought sleeping was saving energy but when it was measured, the energy saved appeared to be insignificant and the same energy can be found in a piece of toast (50 kCal). Another school of thought believed that sleep was necessary to maintain cognitive skills and development.
A person moves through all four different cycles during full sleep and can step up or down. But from my observation, it seems some people are not deep sleepers as even the slightest of movements get them awake. You can never take something from them or tip-toe past them if you get what I mean.
Importance of sleep
Some say sleep is essential for reinforcing our memories and for the making of new neurones. Some wonder that it is a waste of time because it has been estimated that we spend almost a third of our lives sleeping. From what I have read so far, many attribute the clearing of toxic waste products as a major reason why we need to sleep and the system responsible for this is the lymphatic system (glial cells are the main players of this system). When I feel tired or have a headache, I normally go to sleep and wake up later feeling better.
Watch this TED talk about why we sleep from Russell Foster, a circadian neuroscientist, and drop your comments below:
Some have attributed the increase in neurodegenerative (Alzheimer, Parkinson, and Dementia to mention but a few) diseases to sleep disturbance because researches have said that the proteins that build up in these diseases are not being cleared as this clearance is slowed down during wakefulness. I will encourage you to read the following articles which I found interesting and see what you can glean from it
Despite what so many have said about this topic, I feel sleep is important and it is a natural process we all go through regardless of who we are or what position we occupy in the society. I will like to highlight what I found. A world record for staying awake without sleep was 11 days (264 hours) by Randy Gardner in 1965 when he was 17. Yes you read it well, ELEVEN DAYS and he could still function quite well. Others have been reported to surpass this record but Randy’s was well documented. Example is Tom Wright who was reported to be awake for 266 hours. Some people seem to get by on little sleep of four hours in a day and I have read about them. From Margaret Thatcher to CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. But you should try and understand yourself so you can know how you can better plan your activities to fit around your sleeping hours.