How to Know How Much Sleep You Need – Part Two

Test your own sleep needs.

How you do so will depend on your individual circumstances and schedule. Choose the strategy below that is most convenient for you:

Test 1:

  • Wake up at the same time in the morning, every day of the week. The time you choose doesn’t really matter as long as it’s not likely you’ll get woken up earlier. (For example, if you choose 8am, but you know that on Fridays your roommate makes a lot of noise at 7am and it tends to wake you up, set the time at 7 instead. It’s just for the length of this experiment, not for the rest of your life.)
  • Set your alarm clock and force yourself to get out of bed as soon as the alarm clock goes off (read tips in How to Stop Hitting the Snooze Button).
  • Go to bed each night whenever you feel tired. Don’t stay up if you feel sleepy. Force yourself to go to bed even if you’re not tired. After two weeks, your body will know that it has to get up at that specific time and will begin to consistently start feeling tired at the time that will provide you with the necessary number of hours of sleep.

Test 2:

  • Choose a time to go to bed that will allow you up to 9 hours (or 10, if you can manage it!) of uninterrupted sleep before you need to wake up. It also needs to be a time when you will easily fall asleep; if you’re not tired or sleepy and you end up lying in bed without sleeping, this test won’t work.
  • Do not use an alarm clock. If you need to wake up at 9am so you can make it to work, go to bed every night at 11pm (which gives you 10 hours to sleep) to ensure that you wake up naturally by 9am. If you’re worried you might sleep more than 10 hours, set an “emergency” alarm at 9:15, or do the other test instead.
  • As the test goes on, you’ll notice that you start waking up on your own at the same time every day. Let’s say you go to sleep every night at 12am and find yourself waking up feeling rested every morning at 8am. That means you need 8 hours of sleep.

Listen to your body.

You may discover you need anywhere between 3 and 12 hours of sleep. If you sleep that much (or little) and you feel fine, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. There’s no evidence for the recommended 8 hours of sleep a night. Some people who need less sleep feel pressured to sleep for longer, because everyone tells them they should be getting more sleep in order to be healthy, and their worrying leads to insomnia!

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