It's the eternal question of sleep-deprived people and champion nappers everywhere: How much sleep do we actually need each night? Happily, the folks at ASAP Science (the same ones who brought us that amazing “Does Penis Size Matter?” video last week) have us covered. They've cooked up a little something explaining how much sleep we should be getting in order to function at our best — and (I would argue) more importantly, whether we can really “catch up” on it if we haven’t gotten enough. Here's the deal:
Research has shown that getting eight hours of zzz’s a night is better than six or four; after 14 days, subjects sleeping for eight hours displayed fewer attention span issues, while the functionality of those getting six or four went way, way down. In fact, not getting enough sleep actually makes us act drunk. True story.
That decline is what scientists call “sleep debt” — and like all debt (hi there, student loans!), the question of whether we can ever work it off is hotly debated. The short answer: As long as your sleep debt only expands over a few nights, a few more nights of good, solid sleep should set you right. Long-term insomniacs, though, are out of luck: The bigger the debt, the slower the recovery and the more nights of good sleep you need to catch up. We don’t know yet whether years of bad sleep causes brain damage — but if it does, hoo boy. Talk about nightmare.
No, not that kind of nightmare, Ron.
So, to answer our initial question: Getting seven to eight hours a night seems to be ideal, keeping not only our brains in good health, but our bodies, as well. More than eight hours might be trouble, though, as our risk for things like obesity and diabetes goes up if we sleep for longer than that each night.
There’s a lot more at play than just these things, though, so watch the whole video for the big picture:
Having trouble getting a decent night’s sleep? I feel you — I’m a notoriously light sleeper, and I usually end up waking up for a substantial period of time each night (which is probably why I scored so poorly on this sleep deprivation test). Luckily, though, the ASAP Thought channel has a few extra tips and tricks to help you improve the quality of your sleep. Check it out:
Who knew that nap time had such specific rules?