Healthy Mind
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How Much Sleep Do You Really Need to Work Productively? (A Scientific Answer)

How many hours of sleep do you get every night?

Everyone is different. While many adults may need 7-8 hours of sleep per night, chances are you’ve heard the old standby: 8 hours. Where did this number come from?

You may be surprised to know that there’s technically no proof that the average human needs 8 hours of sleep every night.

So how much sleep do we actually need to work productively?

You may also be surprised to find out that sleeping too much can be just as bad for your health as sleeping too little!

I always advise my patients that the best time to be asleep is between 12-2 a.m. This is the ideal biological time to be asleep and the body will have the best rest during this time, and it’s important for your liver detoxification.

During 1-2 a.m., your liver is eliminating toxins and is very active. It’s crucial to be asleep during this time to help your liver completely eliminate any metabolic waste in your system.

The standard 8 hours doesn’t work for every person. In fact, many people who oversleep do so after the 8-hour mark. Sometimes sleeping less than 8 hours can be better than sleeping more!

Research shows that people who sleep too little or sleep too much mentally age two years compared with people who slept an average amount.

So how much is too much? Experts say sleeping any longer than 9 hours is generally too much for adults.

Of course, this will vary from person to person. The average person needs about 8 hours of sleep every night. If you’re over 60, you may be able to get by on one or two hours of less sleep every night. For seniors, only 5-7 hours may be needed!

The Effects of Not Enough Sleep

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Not getting enough sleep can be detrimental to your health. But what about those people who feel rested or awake after sleeping for only a few hours?

Research indicates that although these people may “feel” normal, their brain function actually isn’t. People who get by on just a few hours of sleep every night have trouble re-focusing on tasks, tend to age faster, and are less productive.

Not getting enough sleep is also associated with other major health problems. Poor sleeping habits over time will affect your health long term!

Too little sleep has been linked to the following health problems:

  • Increased risk for weight gain and obesity
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Heart disease and high blood pressure
  • Diabetes and problems with insulin resistance
  • Increased susceptibility to illness

Sleep is vital for your body, but especially your brain. What does the brain do during sleep that will affect your productivity the next day?

What Happens While We Sleep?

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The brain is an amazing organ that does many things while we sleep that can influence our productivity the next day. These tasks include:

As you can see, getting a proper night’s rest can result in good things the next day! This is because your brain is essentially strengthening connections, solidifying memories, and detoxing.

Having a routine is important. Erratic sleep patterns can lead your body and brain to pay the price of not enough–or too much–sleep.

Routine Is Key

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Many people who live a modern lifestyle sleep too late. Getting the right amount of sleep is crucial for your productivity the next day and in the future–consistently sleeping too much or too little has been shown to increase your risk of chronic diseases.

Not getting the right amount of sleep can also lead to poor decision making, emotional distress, and accidents. These are not things that will help your productivity!

So how can you get into a routine to help get a normal amount of sleep every night?

1. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.

2. Don’t eat or consume caffeine for about two hours before bedtime. Providing your body with more fuel can keep you awake!

3. Avoid doing things in your bedroom such as working or watching T.V. I always advise my patients to make their bedroom a serene place without added stressors of technology or reminders of things you need to do.

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4, Exercise, but try not to exercise close to bedtime. This can only serve to keep the body awake.

5. Try a calming practice before bed, such as reading a book, performing a simple yoga routine, or taking a bath.

It’s also important to not take naps too late in the afternoon. However, when done at the right time, naps may help to boost your productivity!

Do Naps Help?

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Naps have actually been shown to be more effective than caffeine when it comes to helping boost productivity in the afternoons, when people are most likely to get tired during the day.

Napping has gotten a bad reputation over the years, but in fact, many countries factor naps into their workday, also referred to as siestas, in order to stay productive. Some companies in the United States are quickly catching on!

Since many people get tired around 2:30 in the afternoon (this is commonly referred to as the “2:30 feeling”), napping may help your brain to rest and help you to feel recharged!

2-3 p.m. is the peak time for creativity, so try to take your nap before then. Around 12-1 p.m. is a good time for resting your body and to be more productive in the afternoon and avoid that afternoon slump!

Experts say that humans are biologically wired to take two different sleeps a day–and a brief nap in the afternoon could be the answer to helping balance your sleep cycle and establish a routine.

How long should you nap for? 5-10 minutes is good, but 15-30 minutes is ideal. Over an hour is too long and you’ll feel more sluggish after sleeping–not what you want!

When was the last time you took a nap? It might be time to give it a try to boost your productivity!

How to Get Tired

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How tired do you need to be to sleep well and get your optimal amount of hours?

You should be mentally and physically tired–reading or exercising can help if you find that you’re still energized at the end of the day.

It’s important to not exercise too close to your regular sleep time in the evening, and always be sure you feel sufficiently tired before going to bed.

Exercising is huge. Even a 30-minute walk per day can help you to feel tired and to ward off excess energy and fight insomnia. Staying productive throughout the day–possibly with a brief napping interval–can help!

How much sleep do you find works best for you? Are you able to work productively for the entire day without a nap? We’re interested to hear!

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About Dr. Laura Huang


Dr. Laura Huang has a broad knowledge in natural and holistic medicine. She has a much different approach to integrating natural herbs and conventional medicine. She produced excellent results with a variety of chronic health conditions for her patients over 20 years in Orange County, California. Tens of thousands of patients come from all over the country to consult their health problems and take her special formulated herbal medicine to achieve fast, safe long term solution. Many patients call her “a miracle worker”.