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Is the 8 hours of sleep rule a myth?

Sleep: Is the 8 hours rule a myth?

Sleep is a luxury for most. With work, kids and other responsibilities, you may enjoy anything between two to eight hours every night. However, it can differ for other people. According to QUARTZ, there is an ongoing mantra that eight hours is the ‘holy grail’ of sleepy time. Some say they need more, while others prefer to function on a mere four or five hours. 

Are you worried when you lie awake in the middle of the night because you’ve gone to bed too early? A developing body of research, including science and history, suggests sleeping eight hours may be an abnormality – especially for adults. 

There is a difference in sleeping patterns for many reasons. It can depend on what job you have or how much daily exercise you commit to. Particular research showcases that the amount of sleep you need may rely on your genes. 

Sleeping for eight hours is still ideal after hundreds of years. It isn’t necessarily incorrect, but perhaps not in the traditional execution of a chunk of eight hours. Some experts believe humans aren’t designed to sleep for so long, but what works for you?

Your genes tell a story.

Neuroscientists say sleep is essential, and to deny you of it can show risks to your health and lifespan. While you snooze, the brain and body maintain functions that cannot happen if you are awake. However, your sleep functions remain dictated by genes to accomplish the proper maintenance. 

Are you a short sleeper or a long sleeper? Short sleepers need seven hours of shut-eye to restore energy, whereas long sleepers need nine hours of sleep. 

It is rare for you someone to require six hours or more It usually means you are chronically deprived. There is an exception: if you have a genetic variant that allows your brain to function better on six hours or less sleep. Very few people have this gene. 

Instead of forcing the amount of sleep you need, rather leave that decision up to your brain. 

A matter of age

Your age plays a role in the amount of hours you sleep. Some newborns need 14 to 17 hours of sleep a day, but some newborns survive on 11 to 18 hours. 

Children in the age bracket of six to 13 function better after 9 to 11 hours of sleep. Some children can sleep for 12 hours. 

A majority of adults between 18 and 64 require seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Your mood, energy levels and overall health determine how much sleep suits you need. Feeling sleep during the day or needing a caffeine boost is a sign you need more rest.  

Napping isn’t a substitute for sleep.

A quick nap gives you an energy boost. It is not regarded the same as quality sleep  at night because napping doesn’t include the necessary sleep stages.

People who are deprived of sufficient sleep use napping to catch up on sleep. It does the exact opposite and throws off your schedule further. Long naps tend to have you wake up feeling disorientated or sluggish. 

There is no harm in taking naps, but it is not the answer to sleep deprivation. If you need to nap, keep the time period under 30 minutes and preferably in the early afternoon as to not affect your evening rest schedule.

Bad habits to avoid

It is essential to wind down before going to bed. This usually includes meditation, reading or resting without stimulation. A peaceful bedtime environment and coolness may help too. 

Avoid any exposure to the blue light from electronic devices, such as your television, smartphone, tablet, etc. Stay away from any demanding or stressful work before you retire to bed, and try not to extend the use of sleeping tablets. 

Eating too close to bedtime, nicotine, caffeine, alcohol and a warm bedroom temperature are harmful to your sleeping pattern too.

Make rest a priority.

Sleeping is not meant to be at the bottom of your priority list. Sleep science has improved over the last 20 years. There is growing research about how it works, its significance and how it can be disrupted. 

Science aside, it is common to be misinformed by what you read online, on social media or even word-of-mouth. False information is easily repeated over and over again and eventually becomes a myth. At the same time, myths may not be entirely false, as there are people who suffer from poor sleep habits. Be sure to get information from a registered health professional before applying any new routine or medication to your life. 

Trust your gut. If you feel like your sleeping pattern can improve, speak to a sleep expert or your doctor. They can easily assist in making your sleep routine relaxing and peaceful once again by advising on various methods or medication.


Affinity Health is South Africa’s leading provider of affordable medical insurance. Members have access to a network of healthcare providers. We have designed healthcare products to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service. For more information, follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.


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