Is 4 hours of sleep enough? How much do you really need?

October 9, 2020 3 mins read
Is 4 hours of sleep enough? How much do you really need?

We can all relate to getting only 4 hours of sleep. Perhaps it was staying up all night studying, you went out with your mates and came home late, or you’re a new parent, and the little one is keeping you up at all sorts of late (or early) hours.

Experts say you should be getting 7-9 hours of sleep every night. However, there are folks (perhaps you’re one of them), who still manage to function on much less shut-eye. But is 4 hours enough? Unless you’re a short sleeper (more on that later), short-changing your sleep can cause all sorts of unwanted consequences. Let’s explore.

Is it normal to only get 4 hours of sleep?

Four hours of sleep is not enough for your body to fully rejuvenate itself. Within the suggested 7-9 hours, your body and brain experience 5 stages of sleep. Each cycle is essential to your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Some of the processes that happen during a full sleep cycle include strengthening the immune system, growing and mending tissues and muscles and consolidating memories.

If you sleep for 4 hours or less, you might find yourself struggling to concentrate and find it hard to remember information.

How much sleep do you actually need?

The Sleep Foundation has set out guidelines on how much sleep each age group needs. Because the amount of sleep you need also depends on your general health and circadian rhythm (internal body clock) the amount differs from person to person.

  • Babies (0-3 months): 14-17 hours
  • Babies (4-11 months): 12-14 hours
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): 11 to 14 hours
  • Preschool (3-5 years): 10-13 hours
  • Teen (14-17 years): 8-10 hours
  • Young adult (18-25 years): 7-9 hours
  • Adult (26-64 years): 7-9 hours
  • Older adult (65+ years): 7-8 hours

Then there are short sleepers, who can sleep for 4 hours or less and still be at their best. These micro-snoozers (a tiny part of the population) have a hereditary gene mutation which allows them to function fully on very little sleep.

What are the effects of getting less than 4 hours of sleep?

Short-changing your sleep can leave you feeling moody, irritable, tired and unmotivated. But there are serious long-term consequences too. Lack of sleep over the long term can lead to the following:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Weight gain
  • Weak immune system
  • High blood pressure
  • Forgetfulness

How to get more sleep

With hectic work schedules, a thriving social life and relationships to juggle, we get that squeezing in more time to sleep can seem impossible. But if you take the time to put good sleep hygiene habits into practice, then you could be well on your way to sweet dreams.

Here are some ways to optimize your sleep.

  • Make your room a sleep sanctuary
  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule
  • Avoid caffeine before bed
  • Eat lighter meals at night and exclude some foods from your diet
  • Set aside a couple of minutes before bed to do some light stretching to relax your body

You’ll do yourself a world of good by stocking up on more z’s. While it’s not always possible, make it a point to steer yourself back to the 7 to 9-hour benchmark so that you can reap the benefits of good sleep – feeling upbeat, recharged and ready to face the day.