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The Myth of Needing 8 Hours of Sleep

Updated on October 31, 2017
Nadine May profile image

Born in Holland Nadine emigrated to South Africa taught art therapy and had a spiritual awakening that influenced her whole outlook on life.


True or false?

Medical research tell us that people who get less than seven hours each night tend to be more susceptible to the common cold and weight gain. I do wonder if that is not to sell more sleeping tablets.

My personal sleeping pattern

Yesterday I woke up at five so I read, this morning my clock said it was 7:30. I usually go to bed well after midnight. This is my normal pattern. The only time I set an alarm clock is when I need to get somewhere early, say before or at 8 in the morning. Then I need time to get ready.
The moment I lie down in bed, it does not take long before I have fallen asleep. If I sense that my mind is too active, (due to watching TV in the lounge or an internet article) I read a few pages of one of the books on my bedside book shelf and that always works. Reading while lying in bed triggers me to sleep.

Everyone is different. Some people drink caffeine and get a rush, but caffeine never affects me. Sleep requirements vary from person to person. Six to nine hours seem to be the normal range, but there are people like me who fall outside that range and do just fine.

I also discovered that I have chiropractic problems. Sometimes if I have slept longer that my normal 5 to max 6 hour pattern I feel stiff. My lower back or my neck is all kinky and grindy and nasty but if I’ve only have slept around 4 to 5 hours I do not seem to have lower back or neck symptoms?

How many hours sleep do you need?

See results

My personal waking hour patterns

My work day is usually about 5 to 7 hours in our office in front of a computer, and in-between I have breaks and drink coffee and have lunch in our garden or on our front deck. Sometimes I end up doing some gardening, or we go out for some errands.
Usually after dinner, if I watch TV or a movie, by 9:30 I can doze off (after I drink a cup of coffee!) No matter how good the program is that I’m watching, the TV screen with its flickering imagery puts me to sleep.
I know that the moment I get up and go to our office and to my computer to write, or be creative with Photoshop, I can go on for hours. My sleepy feelings are instantly gone. Before I know it it’s well after midnight. My partner has a similar pattern, except he does not doze off after nine like I do. We are both night owls. We sleep on an average between 5 to max 6 hours every night.

I have come to the conclusion that researchers do not really have a clue what constitutes “normal” sleep.

Consider these under-explored variations on our daily sleep:

A Monophasic sleep schedule

Sleep Schedule: 7 to 8 hours of continuous sleep every night.

Most people follow a monophasic sleep schedule, which involves seven to eight hours of continuous sleep every night as the necessary way to refresh ourselves. True or false? I feel this is NOT TRUE and believing this only creates stress for people who are unable to achieve that goal

In sleep, we slip back to a more primitive state and we go on a psychic archaeological dig. Freud proclaimed the first sleep stage to be the royal road to the unconscious and we become creatures whose rhythms derive from the moon and the seas much more than the clock and the computer. I liked that!

Tid Bit

The DEC2 gene is known to regulate the 24-hour body clocks of animals, including mice and humans, but this is the first time that an abnormal DEC2 gene has been seen in humans.

What are Polyphasic sleepers?

Sleep Schedule: six naps of no longer than 30 minutes

A new study suggests that the amount of sleep you need may be written in your genes.

This pattern reminds me of my mother who would drop off to sleep during the day wherever she was. In total, you get about three hours of sleep per day.

Most of us readers are familiar with the stories of polyphasic sleepers such as Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Buckminster Fuller and Margaret Thatcher, who got along fine with as little as four hours sleep each night.

Scientist’s struggles to understand polyphasic sleep because they question whether polyphasic sleepers get enough REM sleep. I go along with the idea that human evolution favours a polyphasic sleep pattern. For example, the "sleepless elite," about 1% to 3% of the population, can survive on a few hours of sleep per night. Some of polyphasic sleepers' success could depend on their individual genetics because a mutated gene, called the DEC2, allows these select sleepers to still get the rest they need.


A Dymaxion sleep schedule

Sleep Schedule: 30-minute “naps” every 6 hours.

R. Buckminster Fuller invented the term A Dymaxion sleep schedule. "BuckyWorks,"
J. Baldwin writes that Fuller achieved enormous success with his unusual sleeping habits to fall asleep within 30 seconds. Fuller reportedly switched back to a monophasic schedule only after complaints from his wife.

The Dymaxion requires 30-minute naps every six hours, for a total of two hours of sleep per day. I’ve never tried that.

The last Sleeping tip

Sleep deprivation: chronic sleep deprivation has been tied to partying all night and every night, Stress ( a big culprit) or an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression. For whatever reason, sleep deprivation significantly affects our health, performance during our daily lives, so we all need to establish why sleep deprivation is happening.

Does Aging Changes Sleep Patterns?

Some say that aging causes people to have a harder time falling asleep. They awaken more often during the night and earlier in the morning. That is NOT my experience at all but dozing through prime-time television shows might be age related.

Apparently there are historical records of people sleeping in two bouts at night. They called the first bout dead sleep, and the second bout was called morning sleep, or known as the “first sleep” and the “second sleep.” The wakeful period in between was referred to as watch or watching.

You might think that lying awake for two hours would be a kind of torture, but when it happens to me I find it a kind of quiescent, meditative state. Dreams also wake me up and then being awake gives me a moment to reflect on my dreams that I clearly remember.


It's worth adding that one of the ways to avoid sickness is to deliberately sleep a lot longer than normal as soon as you notice any symptoms, such as a sore throat or low-grade fever.

Any sickness will usually require longer sleeping. When sick, the body needs long periods of rest / immobility; this gives the immune system the time and energy it needs to function at full capacity.

Brain waves

One way to assess the age-related changes in sleep is to look at brain waves. When we're little, we have a lot of very high, slow brain waves at the beginning of the night and that seems to be the best, most restorative kind of sleep.

I’ve created an image to show the different brainwaves as we grow older. A lot can be read about our sleeping habits, but I’m glad that not everyone needs to sleep 8 hours every night in order to stay healthy.


After having done some research for this article on the topic about sleeping, I have come to the conclusion that researchers do not really have a clue what constitutes “normal” sleep, so I decided to call the need for 8 hours sleep a Myth until proven otherwise.
Thanks for reading my article on sleeping.



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    • Nadine May profile imageAUTHOR

      Nadine May 

      18 months ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Interesting about this different sleeping patterns. 6 ours is also better for me. Any longer and my body feels as if I have been crashed by a steamroller.

    • Anita Hasch profile image

      Anita Hasch 

      18 months ago from Port Elizabeth

      Hi Nadine, Interesting hub, and you are right. I discovered many years ago that 6 hours sleep was what I needed. If I sleep longer I feel tired during the day.

    • Nadine May profile imageAUTHOR

      Nadine May 

      2 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Thanks for sharing your sleep patterns Elsie. It's truly amazing that we are all individually different when it comes to our sleeping times.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 

      2 years ago from New Zealand

      Nice article about sleep. I'm one of those that sleep in two bouts at night.

      Like 10pm t0 2am stay awake about three hour which at times can be very annoying because I find I sleep later in the morning when I should be up about 7.30 to have breakfast and get out on the farm with my husband to feed our 130 animals on the farm.

      I do feel tired all day, but never nap during the day, just do a jig-saw puzzle which relaxes my body and gives me the energy to cook tea for my husband.

      Happy days.

    • Nadine May profile imageAUTHOR

      Nadine May 

      3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment on my article about our sleeping patterns. I'm sure that any kind of trauma, sadness or flue does influence our sleeping patterns as well. I do sometimes suddenly sleep a full 8 hours, which is very unusual, but my body must know best.

    • ocfireflies profile image


      3 years ago from North Carolina


      I agree with you in that what constitutes "normal" is often a ploy to sell more sleeping aids. I also believe that each of us are wired differently which may contribute to why some of us seem to function on more or less sleep. For me, I really find myself out of sorts when I fall into those periods of sleep deprivation. I do not think I slept hardly at all during the week my mama passed away or very much recently when my dad underwent open-heart surgery and 10 days in ICU. I have yet to return to a pattern in which I sleep through the night no matter what time I lie down. Even as young person, I had a hard time staying up late. I do think there is something to how some of us are more night owls where others like me, function more effectively as early risers. With that said, thank you for writing a fascinating piece and one so important for all of us.



    • Nadine May profile imageAUTHOR

      Nadine May 

      3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Thanks for reading my 8 hour sleep article Patricia. Glad I manage to include some unknown information for you.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      3 years ago from sunny Florida

      I tend to agree with you , Nadine. I really question how 'someone' can come up with an arbitrary number that is a one size fits all....

      Thanks for sharing your insights and lots of info I had not read...

      Angels are headed your way this morning once again ps

    • Nadine May profile imageAUTHOR

      Nadine May 

      3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      You pattern does sound very much like mine except for the retire early part. Yes going out never makes me sleepy and I can relate to just sleeping for a few hours before the next day is upon me.

    • Nadine May profile imageAUTHOR

      Nadine May 

      3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Many thanks Ann for your sharing about the stiffness I mean. I'm glad you like my illustrations.

    • Nadine May profile imageAUTHOR

      Nadine May 

      3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Yes Ive heard others say that as well. Lack of sleep could effect peoples moods. Thanks for reading my post.

    • Nadine May profile imageAUTHOR

      Nadine May 

      3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Ha ha Kevin I know what you mean!

    • Nadine May profile imageAUTHOR

      Nadine May 

      3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Thanks for sharing Flourish. It seems that your body lets you know that you NOW need to sleep when your body flares up! Having a cold is not always negative.

    • Nadine May profile imageAUTHOR

      Nadine May 

      3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Hi Sandy I agree that many people seem to still need 8 hours but when we do what we love every day I think we need less.

    • travmaj profile image


      3 years ago from australia

      I do agree with all you say Nadine. Sleep patterns are different for all of us - there is no normal. Now I'm older I do find I tire earlier - but that's ok, I retire early, read a book ,sleep and wake and get up early, refreshed. If I wake in the night that's ok too. Oddly when we are out at the theatre etc and arrive home late I rarely feel tired so only sleep a few hours and that works too. Just go with the flow I reckon...

    • Nadine May profile imageAUTHOR

      Nadine May 

      3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Hi Genna yes its a myth. I have far to much fun to waste long hours of sleep, unless I'm having a cold or the flue!

    • Nadine May profile imageAUTHOR

      Nadine May 

      3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Yes I agree Aufait that to believe that we HAVE to sleep a certain length of time is preposterous. To belief in something strongly does create stress!

    • Nadine May profile imageAUTHOR

      Nadine May 

      3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Many thanks for your comment and voted Up Kalinin. I'm starting to suspect that having joy in what we are involved in works like a meditation!

    • Nadine May profile imageAUTHOR

      Nadine May 

      3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Yes that is my experience as well. The more I enjoy my daily tasks the less sleep I seem to need!

    • Nadine May profile imageAUTHOR

      Nadine May 

      3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Thank you so much for your comment Dr Pran. TV does seem to be soporific for me.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I try to sleep 8 hours and couldn't do less than that I won't be a very pleasant person.

    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 

      3 years ago

      Hi Nadine,

      I simply wanted to let you know that during the day, instead of 15 min. naps, I take 5 min. naps to save time. The thing about them is that they seem to be just as long as the 15 min. ones when I am asleep.


    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      I find that I need less sleep as I get older but I also find that I sleep less well too, for no other particular reason. Your point about the back ache is familiar too!

      As long as I feel refreshed in the morning it doesn't bother me how long I've been asleep. Exercise helps me sleep more soundly.

      I think you're right about the 'normal' amount needed. No one person is the same as the next in so many ways that I presume that applies to sleep too.

      Great illustrations, as always.


    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      3 years ago from USA

      My sleep is completely broken, as I have a teenage daughter who must be at the bus stop at 6 a.m. and a husband who wakes at 4 ish to exercise. I am naturally a night person, so their schedules really mess me up. Plus, with my MS I find sleep to be a hobby. I so wish that I were one of the "sleep elite." I do find that when I am having problems with my MS flares or with a cold or other ailment, I am able to take to bed and sleep it off.

    • Nadine May profile imageAUTHOR

      Nadine May 

      3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Thanks for your compliment Dora. The internet is indeed full of medical informants.

    • Nadine May profile imageAUTHOR

      Nadine May 

      3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Yes Larry true, so many people all have different sleeping patterns, so long as each person knows what works best for them.

    • Nadine May profile imageAUTHOR

      Nadine May 

      3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Many thanks for your comment and the voted up.

    • Nadine May profile imageAUTHOR

      Nadine May 

      3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Interesting Shauna . If I go to bed before midnight I wake up to far to early. between 12 and 1 works the best for me.

    • Nadine May profile imageAUTHOR

      Nadine May 

      3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Many thanks for reading my post Mary. Yes the average times are probably between 6 - 8 hours. Thanks for the vote up.

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      3 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      I am lucky if I get 5 to 6 hours of sleep. I don't think the 8 hour rule applies to everyone and getting less sleep for some is fine.

    • Nadine May profile imageAUTHOR

      Nadine May 

      3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      I do find that I have periods that I suddenly seem to catch up by sleeping in but thanks I will do that, looking at the Poll I mean.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Hi Nadine...

      I certainly hope it's a myth, for I can't seem to get beyond 6-7 hours. 8 would be bliss, but I have yet to crack the code on how this accomplished. Interesting subject and article! Thank you.

    • Nadine May profile imageAUTHOR

      Nadine May 

      3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Many thanks for your comment Kevin. I'm sure that all the comments below this article will be an added bonus for all readers alike. Thanks for the vote up.

    • Nadine May profile imageAUTHOR

      Nadine May 

      3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Yes Jodah I so can relate to what you wrote in your comment. When I'm creative and at the computer time seem to stand still and then my body starts to tell me that it never did!

    • Nadine May profile imageAUTHOR

      Nadine May 

      3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Thanks for your comment Mel. Yes I know of many people that do. Its very important to know your own body and its needs.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      3 years ago from North Texas

      I've already written about sleep habits and how they were before electricity was invented so that the world can be lit up like day 24/7. For centuries sleeping 8 straight hours was not normal, but with electricity came employer control over our time so that it would benefit them the most.

      Most people sleep 3-4 hours at a time on average. Some people may sleep 2-4 or really, what works for them. Agree that by imposing the idea that everyone MUST get 7-8 hours of sleep every night that it just adds stress to people's lives. That pattern just isn't normal for humans, or wasn't for the first several thousand years on this planet. A lot of people still have trouble sleeping by that pattern and I think if people are allowed to do what comes naturally it will lower their negative stress quotient and that alone will help them be healthier.

      I've always been a night owl too. I have read recently that sleeping too much is as unhealthy as not sleeping enough. People who lose a lot of sleep for some reason and then make it up by sleeping for 10+ hours are, depending on their overall health, in greater danger of having a heart attack than if they just go back to their regular sleep pattern because you can never catch up lost sleep anyway.

      Very interesting subject. Glad to see you're writing on it too. So many people, or so it seems, have nothing but stress trying to live up to sleep habits that work for other people. Not easy in this world -- unless you're independently wealthy and don't depend on others very much for your needs, to adopt one's own personal sleep pattern, but that would be the ideal, or as close to an ideal as we could get.

    • kalinin1158 profile image

      Lana Adler 

      3 years ago from California

      Hi Nadine! Interesting hub. I'm starting to suspect the same thing - that the 8 hour thing is a myth. I find myself worried that I didn't get enough sleep last night even though I feel fine. It's like a persistent belief that's hard to abandon. But I agree with the previous commenter, it depends on many factors, including your meditation regimen or the lack thereof. Thanks for sharing! Voted up.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      3 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Interesting topic. It's funny but I used to need 8-9 hours sleep, now I do well to get 6. I feel rested so I'm not complaining. I agree when we are not feeling well, we need more....Yawn.....

    • Nadine May profile imageAUTHOR

      Nadine May 

      3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Ha Ha I liked your comment. So true about the meditation part. Many thanks for reading my post. Night Night

    • Dr Pran Rangan profile image

      Dr Pran Rangan 

      3 years ago from Kanpur (UP), India

      A very informative hub. The common sleep pattern of 7 to 9 hours of sleep is found in the majority of people but, of course, there are people, who require little sleep without any ill effect of lack of sleep. Generally, sleep pattern changes in older people but there are still some exceptions.

      I also dozed off in front of TV, when it is time to sleep for me unless there is an interesting and exciting program that may keep me wake well beyond my sleep time. But next day I have some difficulty in staying alert.

      In truth, one may find a number of variations in the sleep pattern in some people.

      Thanks for sharing. Voted up!

    • justthemessenger profile image

      James C Moore 

      3 years ago from The Great Midwest

      Nadine, I did not respond to this hub with a yawn. I don't know if you think of that as good or bad. :) I don't think that I ever sleep eight consecutive hours. Just last year, I completed one of my professional temp gigs, a night time 12 hour shift fast paced physical job. I didn't even sleep 8 hours straight after getting home from that job.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Nadine, I agree that there's a lot the medical informants do not know; plus people's needs are so very different. Thanks for tackling this subject. Good job!

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      3 years ago from Oklahoma

      Some people only need a couple hours of sleep a night, and function fine. Personally I need my 8 hours to be at my best.

      People vary.

    • breakfastpop profile image


      3 years ago

      I conclude that your conclusion is right! Thanks for this very informative and interesting hub. Voted up, interesting, useful and awesome.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      3 years ago from Central Florida

      I'm typically asleep by 10:00, 11:00 at the latest. I sleep uninterruptedly for about five hours then wake up. Sometimes I'm awake for an hour, sometimes I fall right back to sleep. After a couple more hours I wake up for the day. Occasionally, I'll wake up at about 4:30 a.m. and am tempted to get up and start me day, but just can't bring myself to do it. To me that's just way too early.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      3 years ago from New York

      I too think it varies by person Nadine. My older brother used to sleep between 2 and 3 hours a night, but then he'd sleep the entire weekend to make up for it! My husband wakes up during the night and can't get back to sleep. As a result he winds up sleeping till 9:00 am, saying his best sleep is from 6:00 am to 9:00 and he naps during the day.

      The more you research (individuals) I believe the more you will find sleep patterns vary from person to person along with their requirements.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • anatomynotes profile image

      Edmund Custers 

      3 years ago

      When you get enough votes on your poll, maybe you should try to analyze it.

      I expect more than 90% of your reader need 6-8 hours of sleep - already apparent from the votes you already have. Maybe some need more than 8 hours of sleep but your poll is limited.

      I think researchers have a clue. They just need to rephrase their claim. Maybe they'd be more correct if they use a range: "About 90% of people need 6-8 hours of sleep. There are some outliers like Nadine May who does fine with 4-5 hours".

      Thank you for the interesting hub. I'll drop by later to check the result of the poll.

    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 

      3 years ago

      I enjoyed reading your Hub - it made me sleepy, lol. Honestly Nadine I enjoyed reading it. I usually sleep 2 hours twice and 1 hour between two and three times. So I may sleep between 6 - 7 hours per night. I go to sleep at 10:00 PM and rise at 5:00 AM, unless I oversleep. I would say that I get enough sleep it is just broken up.

      During the day I take 15 minute naps but no exact amount of them and never the same amount.

      I voted up, shared and pinned it.


    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Very interesting hub Nadine. I too think everyone is different in the amount of sleep they need. I only sleep for between four and six hours. Often when writing hubs etc I am awake until 2 or 3am, but rarely sleep past 7am. If I have an early appointment or have to wake early I will go to bed earlier but usually can't get to sleep. I never have to set an a,arm because my inbuilt body clock will always wake me at the right time. If I have to rise at say 5am I will wake at that time even if I have only gone to sleep at 2am. If for some reason my wife and I have had a busy or hard day and do manage to get to sleep early we will invariably wake up in the middle of the night, make a cup,of tea and coffee, check the Internet or read a book for a few hours before going back to sleep. My wife has sleep apnea so she may have seven hours sleep, wake up at 7am have a cup of tea and breakfast, then go back to sleep for another two or three hours. As I say, we are all different.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      3 years ago from San Diego California

      I'm one of those that feel I need seven hours of sleep. I typically try to be in bed by 11, and my job physically exhausts me so much that I have no difficulty sleeping. I'm always up and about by six, and although I like to grab a little cat nap in the car somewhere along the way, this is not always possible. Overall, I think I'm a decent sleeper with a bad night thrown in here and there along the way. Great hub!

    • Buildreps profile image


      3 years ago from Europe

      Hi Nadine, nice subject and a very informative Hub! I think that people who are crocked by their boss on a daily bases need 7 to 8 hours of sleep to recuperate of this (very) unhealthy life.

      I think you might call 8 hours of sleep a myth with a very big 'but'. I don't sleep more than 4 to 5 hours per night, but I must say that I practise more than one hour of Yoga Nidra per day (the practice of Thoth), which stands for 4 to 5 hours of sleep. And I meditate daily at least one half an hour, and that too calms body and mind. So, that doesn't stand for the average person.

      When you have not the faintest idea of the spiritual world, and are already scared of the word 'meditation' alone, you need 8 hours of sleep per day to stay alive and stay healthy - 100% sure.


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