Harvard professor 'debunks myth' that you need eight hours of sleep every night
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A Harvard scientist has claimed that the idea that we’re supposed to get eight hours of sleep per night simply isn’t true.
It’s a bold claim, as it’s widely-accepted that getting a decent amount of sleep is great for your mind and your body, helping you to recover from the day, as well as resting you for everything that is to come.
But why are we so set on eight hours?
That appears to be the myth that Dr. Daniel Lieberman is keen to dispel.
Lieberman is a paleoanthropologist at the prestigious US university, and has written books and performed research into how the human body works, as well as the actual benefits of exercise, the truth behind modern fitness claims, and comparisons with people from cultures outside of the Western world.
Speaking with Stephen Bartlett on his ‘Diary of a CEO’ podcast, he said: “This idea that you need eight hours of sleep has been around for a long time, basically since the industrial revolution,
“Colleagues in my field - in evolutionary medicine - have put sensors on people who don’t have all the things that we’re told have destroyed sleep.
“We are told that TV, lights, and our phones, and all of these things are preventing us from sleeping.
“Edison destroyed sleep, right?
“When you put sensors on people who don’t have any electricity and they don’t have TVs and don’t have phones and don’t have any of these gadgetry,
“It turns out that they sleep like six or seven hours a night, and they don’t nap,
“So, this idea that natural human beings sleep eight hours a night is just nonsense,
“It’s just not true.”
Obviously, there is no hard-set amount for how much sleep different people need, as everyone will be different, but Lieberman went on to talk about the actual research done in the field that suggests that maybe eight hours isn’t the mark.
He continued: “Furthermore, when you start looking at the data seven hours – if you actually look at graphs of how many hours a night you sleep on the X axis and some outcome like cardiovascular disease or how likely you are to die, it’s kind of a U-shaped curve.
“People who don’t get much sleep are in trouble, but the bottom of that curve is pretty much always like seven hours.
“People actually do better if they sleep for seven hours, and yet we’re told that if you don’t sleep for eight hours there’s something wrong.
“There’s also some complexity to this, too.
“People who are ill might be sleeping more, so there are some biases that creep into how you analyse the data, but basically it turns out that seven is – for most people – optimal.
“But there’s a lot of variation, teenagers sleep more, older people sleep less, it’s complicated.”
It’s worth pointing out that – as Lieberman did say– it’s a complex issue and this is just one perspective.
There’s no absolute consensus on how much sleep people need, and all people are going to be different.
Still, it’s interesting to see these myths tested to attempt to find out how much water they actually hold.
The full episode of ‘Diary of a CEO’ can be found here.