What's your (sleep) number?

What's your (sleep) number?

In our post “Sleep Myths Busted,” we took on the old wive’s tale that people need less sleep as they age – turns out we don’t. That got us musing on the topic of sleep requirements and wondering if there were something like a “universal number” representing the precise amount of time people would sleep in an ideal world.

 

Certainly there’s a long history of using eight hours (480 minutes) as a benchmark. But would a “true” number be higher or lower than that? And by how much?

 

This sent us down a rabbit hole of internet exploration.

 

How much sleep do you really need?

 

Turns out the answer may depend on where in the world you live. A Huffington Post article on sleep averages around the world found a wide range of standards, from a low of 434 minutes in Japan to China’s high of over 540 minutes—more than nine hours.

 

Where does the U.S. fall in this spectrum? Surprisingly, given America’s reputation for stressed-out sleep deprivation, the nation averaged about 507 minutes of sleep per night—nearly eight and a half hours of shut-eye.

 

A recent Mashable post introduced an interesting metric: the difference between the amount of time people sleep on workdays versus time slept on their days off. Presumably when you don’t have to get up for work, you’re more likely to get your “ideal” amount of sleep. Data reported in this post show that until they retire, people will sleep an average of 20 minutes more per night on days off.

 

Of course, these numbers are meaningful only insofar as they refer to groups. But what about individuals? What about you? Have you discovered a magic number of hours, minutes and seconds required to have you feeling fully awake and rested the next day?

 

It could be a good number to know. Interestingly, the data summarized in the Mashable post point out that as people age, the number of hours slept on days off vs. workdays start to become the same number, suggesting that there is, for each person, an “optimal” amount of sleep our bodies naturally seek to achieve.  

 

With all the self-measuring devices and techniques now available, finding out how long you slept, and even how well, is easier than ever. And since the number one tip for good sleep hygiene is to have a routine that includes going to bed at the same time each night, knowing how much sleep you really, truly need is a great step toward better days and nights.

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