Imagine you’re lying in bed at 1 a.m., relentlessly tossing and turning in the dark. You roll over on your side to check the time and realize you’ll be running on the bare minimum: a pathetic five hours of sleep to get you through the day ahead. You might start to plan a coping strategy — maybe three pumps of espresso and an ice cold shower to boot. But here’s the good news: Technically, five hours of sleep is enough to function. However, experts don’t recommend actively pulling an all-nighter just because you can. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends the average adult clock in seven to eight hours of sleep per night, but for some people, less is apparently more.
Seriously, who runs the world? Sleep, that’s who. It’s been scientifically proven time and again that how you function both mentally and physically throughout the day heavily relies on how much and how well you slept the night before, but this whole timing detail is still up for debate. According to ScienceAlert, a mere one percent of the population is made up of “short sleepers,” people who only require four to six hours of sleep instead of the recommended seven to eight.
There aren't any known negative side effects to short sleeping, but that doesn't mean you should try it.
The eerie thing about people whose bodies are somehow OK with sleeping for less than six hours every night is that, despite the obvious lack of shut-eye, they really don't show any negative side effects. In fact, sleep writer and expert from Sleep Train Kelsey Down says short sleepers thrive off of less than six hours of sleep. “The key to short sleep,” Down tells Elite Daily, “is the fact that these people are getting roughly the same amount of rest each night, and it’s usually high-quality rest.” So, even though it sounds like a short sleeper isn't getting enough sleep, the shortened cycles fulfill their body’s needs.
But not everybody can rely on just five hours of sleep every night. There’s a very small chance you’re a short sleeper, which means your body needs at least the FDA-recommended number of hours to recuperate from the day before, and to be alert and able to tackle the day ahead.
So, how can you tell if you’re one of the nocturnal ones? Mattress Firm’s sleep health expert Dr. Kansagra says the answer lies in your DNA. “Though no one is quite sure how this genetic change causes a decreased need for rest,” Kansagra tells Elite Daily, “studies have found a genetic difference.” He also notes that, because the average adult needs anywhere from seven to nine hours of sleep per night, people aren't able to become accustomed to sleeping less than their body’s requirements.
Sleeping less than six hours a night can negatively affect your lifestyle if you're not clinically diagnosed as a short sleeper.
I'm willing to bet you never would have thought a person could actually be diagnosed with the ability to sleep fewer hours and still properly function. According to Healthline, short sleepers are diagnosed through an assessment otherwise known as the Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire that examines how a person performs in their day-to-day lives. People may also be asked to track their sleeping habits in a journal, recording things like hours spent awake versus hours spent sleeping, how often they wake up in the middle of the night, and how often they take naps. It's fascinating, right?
People like President Trump, President Obama, Martha Stewart, and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey have said anywhere from four to six hours of sleep is the sweet spot for them. They don’t need to prolong their shut-eye to wake up and get to work feeling refreshed and energized. It’s as if these select few have some sort of superhuman advantage that allows them to spend less time in bed, and more time on their grind.
But here’s the thing about superpowers, friends: Not everyone has them, which is exactly why your body might seek revenge on your sleep-deprived soul if you're only squeezing in a few hours of shut-eye each night. Maciek Drejak, founder of the alarm clock app Sleep Cycle, tells Elite Daily it all depends on your circadian rhythm, aka the internal clock telling us when it’s time to sleep at night and when to wake up in the morning. Because most people require more than five hours of sleep per night, when we don’t hit those necessary numbers, side effects can range from relatively harmless grogginess and overeating, to more serious health conditions like heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.
Overall, you just have to make sure you're getting enough sleep for your body.
Every body is unique, and every body runs on an individual schedule. It’s true that some people can function exceedingly well on less than six hours of sleep per night, but that’s not the case for everyone, and isn’t recommended as a general rule of thumb. Of course, there will be the occasional spell of insomnia, and things like stress and anxiety can lead to tossing and turning, but there are ways to ensure you get enough sleep every night so that you wake up feeling like a #girlboss.
Doctor of psychology and licensed clinical social worker Danielle Forshee, LLC suggests catering to your circadian rhythm by developing some sort of ritual to help you unwind for the night. “Instead of looking at social media and replying to emails,” she tells Elite Daily, “you need to do something that is relaxing so that you can get tired and fall asleep within a certain time frame.” Additionally, she explains, it’s important to create a morning routine to wake up to. Schedule a time to wake up around every day so that your body becomes used to the consistency.
Martha Cortes, DDS of Sleep Fitness LLC adds it’s important to create a designated “sleep space.” This means stripping your bedroom of all electronics (yes, your smartphone, too). “Shut off electronic devices/social media and replace them with calming activities, such as reading a book for at least one hour before going to bed,” she tells Elite Daily. Eliminating these electronics will also help darken the room, so you can easily fall and stay asleep.
So, while the concept behind short sleep sounds pretty awesome, unless your body is readily equipped to handle the day ahead on a mere five hours of sleep, it's really not that cool. If you're having trouble sleeping or are unable to sleep more than a few hours a night, talk to your doctor to make sure you're getting enough shut-eye.
his post was originally published on Jan. 1, 2018. It was updated on Sept. 12, 2019 by Elite Daily Staff.