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6 hours sleep vs. 8 hours sleep – the myth and the reality!

  • 12 October 2020
  • By Alphonse Reddy
  • 0 Comments

Hiya! We believe and pray everyone is safe and well, as COVID-19 spreads its deadly tentacles in a second wave impacting millions of lives all over the world.  Experts time and again have cited the significance of a sound and restful sleep as a natural immunity booster.  Yet, there is no proven way to measure when or how the body’s immune system is working to optimal performance or any supplements or specific actions thereof that can increase immunity levels to keep COVID-19 or other future infections at bay. To put it further, research studies has proved that sleep deprivation can negatively impact the body’s innate immune system or first immune response, which acts rapidly to prevent the spread and transmission of foreign pathogens. This begs the question: what is the recommended sleep hours - 6 or 8 hours? We have already seen a few blogs earlier that dealt with the recommended sleep hours based on the age and other factors. 

Six-hour of sleep case

With just 4 hours of sleep, say you’re about to catch a 4-hour train journey to your destination, you’ll be more likely to suffer from poor or deprived sleep leading to serious psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, low mood and chronic health consequences including increased risk of diabetes, hypertension, depression, obesity, stroke and heart attack. Many of us in the last six months or so, especially during the lockdown, would have had different sleeping patterns either due to lack of time due to overwork or more time for sleep. Either way, everyone’s sleep varies with the availability of quality time or lack of it. There’s so much that we can learn from it leading to the question on how much sleep is actually required.  

Arianna Huffington, sleep advocate and editor-in-chief of Huffington post, published a rather startling post on the significance of sleep. The study expounded an earlier study that individuals who sleep six hours per night for two weeks lose sleep equally as that of those who stay up for 48 hours.  In today’s world, there’s an increasingly popular trend towards binge-watching television and excessive use of laptops, Smartphone and other mobile-devices that have led to people staying up late at night often unnecessarily. Increasing work demands can up the stress levels, thereby shrinking the sleep hours to less than eight hours.  It must be noted, according to the study, that poor sleep or lack of quality sleep would not only affect at an individual level but also the organization’s bottom line and the overall economy of the nation, which we’ve seen in great detail in a previous blog .  

Another study shows that close to 30 per cent of adult Americans are sleeping less than 6 hours or even less almost on a regular basis.  How would your performance level be when you stay up for 24 or 48 hours? Will you be able to deliver optimal performance? So, why do individuals who take less than 6 hours of sleep regularly do not deliver the expected performance? This is due to a natural phenomenon termed as ‘renorming’ which refers to the human ability to perceive and compare how we feel today to what was felt yesterday or day before. If someone who sleeps eight hours on a regular basis decides to stay up for 24 hours, the deterioration that usually follows will be pretty much evident to him or her. Now, let’s compare this to someone who gives up his or her 8-hour sleep per night to 6 hours over a marked period of two weeks, the performance that wanes as a result would be so gradual that it might not be even palpable to general senses. The point it wants to prove is that both these individuals will experience similar levels of dip in their performance and reaction time. Interestingly, individuals who are sleep deprived are quite bad at being able to rate the experience (as bad) or tell one that they’re actually sleep deprived. To blame it on the efficiency of sleep mattress is a far cry from the truth.

Furthermore, the individual’s effectiveness was reduced by 19%, reaction time by 24% and are almost three times more likely to go through an extremely long lapse in reaction time (also referred to as a ‘microsleep’) compared to someone who has slept the full quota of 8 hours regularly. In other words, those who get rest for only 6 hours per night will not only fail to deliver the expected level of work performance, but might also not realize it due to ‘renorming’.

To put things into perspective, we often talk about fatigue in the workplace that can possibly lead to emotionally draining issues in key functional areas, and that difference in the performance level however negligible can either make or break deal. All said and done we have seen that no organization, by virtue of relationship, no economy big or small is free from lost productivity for that reason.

Eight-hour sleep routine

The 8-hour sleep case gets all the more interesting as we introduce a certain twist into it. Generally, people who claim they get regular 8-hour night sleep, which is the right quantity, actually sleep for only 7.2 hours.  Studies has it that healthy sleepers spend around 90 per cent of the time in bed sound asleep, which means in order to receive 8 hours of quality sleep you may have to sleep for 8.5 hours at a stretch. That’s a ‘myth-breaker’ for sure! And to think of spending time on the bed for 8.5 hours, detaching yourself from the hustle and bustle of daily life, is another thing.  However, experts tell that it’s possible to schedule your sleep with as much as ease as you schedule a Zoom call or fix a client appointment to be more specific, you alone can set your sleep routine. Next, it is important to filter out the noise, as your brain is constantly exposed to micro-arousals during the night that can impact the quality of sleep. Check for even the sound of air conditioner unit as it can turn on your brain. 

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