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What do we call “little” and “big” sleepers? What is the ideal sleep duration? The point with psychiatrist and sleep specialist.

What is the average sleep time?

For the first time, below the minimum daily 7 hours is usually recommended for a good recovery. More than a third of American people (35.9%) sleep less than 6 hours per night, and more than a quarter (27.7%) are in sleep debt, which corresponds to a sleep time below their needs.

Although more than a quarter (27.4%) manage to take a nap to compensate for this debt, sleep insufficiency remains a public health problem. However, numerous epidemiological studies indicate that sleeping less than 6 hours is associated with a higher risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and accidents.

Not to mention the risk of being less alert during the day, being more irritable, and thus altering the quality of personal and professional life.

How can this decline in sleep be explained?

Now, we know that the invasion of screens (smartphones, tablets, computers, and an abundance of cultural and entertainment offered via these tools) at any time of the evening and even at night delays the moment of falling asleep and disrupts the time devoted to sleep,”.

“But there is also the fact that we tend towards a society where the fact to stop or to take time to rest is completely exceeded. We are more in a 24-hour operation than in an activity/rest cycle. In other words, sleep is sometimes experienced as “lost time”, and in fact, people cut back on their sleep time to do other activities.

As a result, sleep time is progressively reduced,” explains the sleep specialist. It is thus in a context of technological evolutions “faced with an acceleration of the rhythms where everyone wants to be present in the world and connected at any time”, that the duration of sleep is modified.

Sleep has essential benefits for good health.

However, sleep is not “just to get back in shape”; it is essential to preserve the immune system:

  • to clean the brain of cellular waste stored during the day
  • to stimulate and consolidate learning
  • to reinforce memory phenomena
  • to allow cellular regeneration
  • to participate in the proper functioning of the heart and, in general, to regulate the metabolism (appetite, stress, irritability…)
    and emotions.
  • And if we don’t sleep enough or poorly, these different mechanisms can’t work correctly.

Is sleeping in on the weekend a good idea?

Sleeping in more on the weekend can make up for the lack of sleep during the week a little bit. But the sleep lost during the week can never be wholly made up because, on the one hand, what is not done on the same day is irrecoverable and on the other hand, what we call sleeping in is, in fact, light sleep and not deep sleep.

Then, sleeping much longer on the weekend than during the week favours the introduction of a break-in rhythm on the chronobiological level. “This break in rhythm is acceptable if it is 1h30/2h. On the other hand, if it goes beyond that, it can harm the metabolism (reinforce the risks of diabetes or obesity, lower the immune defences, for example) and even create additional fatigue.”

Little or big sleeper: what does it mean?

We’re unequal when it comes to sleep. “A light sleeper is someone who sleeps little but is satisfied with their sleep. On the other hand, people who are sleep-deprived or insomniacs cannot be considered light sleepers.

Other people need to sleep a lot (up to 10-11 hours per night) to feel rested; these are called “heavy sleepers”.The ideal is to get enough sleep.

What is the ideal length of sleep?

First of all, let’s remember that sleep duration varies from one person to another. The National Sleep Foundation, an American organization that encourages the public to understand sleep and its disorders, the ideal sleep duration according to age, validated by a scientific committee.

This work gives good benchmarks for knowing how much sleep you need according to age, but of course, these are only averages: some of us are satisfied with less, while others need more hours of sleep. So there’s no need to stay in bed if you wake up naturally and feel rested. Similarly, don’t fight to fall asleep at night if you feel your eyes starting to close.

Are you getting enough sleep? The right questions to ask yourself!

To determine your ideal amount of sleep, you should pay special attention to your mood, energy and health after a “good night’s sleep” and after a “bad night’s sleep”.

You can, for example, record these observations in a notebook and note the number of hours you slept, as well as the time you went to bed and woke up. Next, you need to ask yourself the right questions. For example:

  • Am I productive, attentive, in a good mood and rested when I sleep 7 hours? Or, on the contrary, do I need 8 or 9 hours of sleep?
  • Am I tired as soon as I wake up?
  • Am I irritable when I sleep 6 or 7 hours? 
  • On weekends or during vacations, after how many hours of sleep do I wake up spontaneously?
  • Do I need a nap to recharge my batteries during the day? If so, how long do I need it for?