Is 6 Hours of Sleep Enough?

January 23, 2024

I can’t tell you how many patients have asked me, “Is 6 hours of sleep enough?” — typically those with the busiest lives.

The answer is no. For 99% of people, six hours per night isn’t enough. Here’s why.

No Time for Sleep?

Why does it seem like there’s less time for sleep these days?

Tech innovations — cell phones, smartwatches, computers — were made to streamline our lives. Instead, they increasingly consume our time and attention. The microwave oven was once a time-saving way to whip up a quick meal. Now we run to it constantly with food to cook, heat, and reheat.

Despite all the time-saving technology around us, people are busier than ever. And they keep squeaking by on six hours of sleep.

We’ve all experienced it: Tomorrow’s a demanding day where you need to be at your best, but you’re too wired to sleep. So, you push sleep away to watch TV or browse a few websites.

Busy patients often tell me, “I can get by on five or six hours of sleep a night. My body’s built for that.”

But it’s not.

You may pull it off in the short term, but in the long run, there are consequences. While a few people can get by on seven hours of sleep or less, the average adult needs a solid eight hours per night. Many could benefit from more.

Infographic: Is 6 Hours of Sleep Enough?

Why Isn’t Six Hours of Sleep Enough?

It may seem like a paradox, but sleep is a very active process, vital to refreshing your body and brain. When you sink into sleep, your mind cycles through several critical sleep stages that help you process and heal from the day’s stressors.

This requires not just eight hours of sleep, but eight hours of quality sleep. Even with, say, nine hours of slumber, only six of those might be truly good quality if you don’t sleep deeply or you wake up multiple times. Six hours is not enough.

(Pro tip: To determine whether you’re getting deep, productive sleep, wear reliable sleep tech.)

Risks of Not Getting Enough Sleep

Tempted to power through on Red Bull or extra coffee? Do what’s needed to survive your busy day, of course, but next time, focus on improving your sleep situation.

When low-quality sleep becomes routine, neither the mind nor the body heal as efficiently. You struggle to handle stress. Your thinking becomes less focused. Exhaustion and stress release excess cortisol, so you may gain weight. Your blood pressure and blood sugar elevate.

A sleep-deficient body experiences all these changes and more. In the long term, sleep deprivation puts you at higher risk for a host of ills, including dementia, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, diabetes, obesity, and depression.

Wellness Depends on Great Sleep

The importance of sleep hygiene is often overlooked, but it’s truly foundational to our health. People will exercise or change their diet to improve blood sugar or blood pressure, yet they resist turning off the TV to get an extra hour of sleep.

Your Priority Physicians want to change that mindset.

If you exercise and eat healthily but your sleep is of poor quality, your long-term wellness suffers. Do you get just six hours of sleep, then roll out of bed pre-dawn to hit the gym before work? Your health might benefit more if you got that extra hour of sleep instead.

Exercise and a good diet may help you live to be 100, but what’s the point if your years of sleep deprivation hasten dementia?

Quote: Is 6 Hours of Sleep Enough?

The Takeaway

So, is six hours of sleep enough? It isn’t, and if you’re asking the question, it’s probably time to step back and assess your busyness, habits, and routine.

Should you get up for that early gym session or choose more restorative sleep instead? Do you know if you’re getting good-quality sleep? Are you conscious of behaviors that are well-intentioned but undermine your health?

This is where your concierge physician can help.

Schedule time with your doctor for routine lab work, perhaps a stress test, and a chat about your lifestyle and sleep habits. We can recommend ways to monitor your sleep cycles and advise you on how to improve your long-range wellness with revitalizing sleep.

Your Priority Physicians look forward to helping you get a good night’s sleep every night.

Dr. Jonathan Schmidt

Dr. Schmidt is a board-certified family medicine physician with undergraduate degrees in Microbiology and medicine from Southern Illinois University and the University of Illinois. He completed his residency at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in South Bend, IN and has a passion for putting his patients first in his practice. In his free time, Dr. Schmidt enjoys spending time with his family and participating in outdoor activities such as water sports and woodworking.

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