How Much Sleep Do you Get (And Need)?

All but the luckiest of new parents will be able to share stories about how sleep deprivation has affected their lives. And although my boy is 11 months old, there are still nights where he won’t sleep well, and that translates into my wife and I not sleeping well, and this can make for long, tough, tired days.

It’s been proven that sleep deprivation is harmful for us. Back in 2000, the Occupational and Environmental Medicine journal published a report that sleep deprivation can produce “the same hazardous effects as being drunk.”

More recently, studies have shown that too little sleep can even give people with high blood pressure a heart attack.

I’ve never required very much sleep, maybe 6 to 6.5 hours a night, and this has been true my whole life. My mom tells me that she recalls me waking up very early in the morning even as a very little kid—and I recall this as well—heading downstairs to watch Battle of the Planets as the sun came up.

Sleep deprivation seemed to affect me less when I was younger, though. Late nights in high school and college were easily shrugged off. These days, in my mid-30’s, I don’t seem to do as well when I’m pushed beyond my 6 hour minimum, and it seems like it can take a few days to fully recover.

A 60 Minutes episode, detailed here, explains this:

Well, the first finding, and it stunned us, was there’s a cumulative impairment that develops in your ability to think fast, to react quickly, to remember things. A single night at four hours or five hours or even six, can in most people, begin to show affects in your attention and your memory and the speed with which you think. A second night it gets worse. A third night worse. Each day adds an additional burden or deficit to your cognitive ability.

So how much sleep do you get … and how much do you need?

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