Gregg D Jacobs, Ph.D.  

Interests: Sleep medicine, Behavioral Medicine
UMass Memorial Medical Center
Sleep Disorders Center
Worcester, MA
All Journal Entries Journals

The Eight Hour Sleep Myth

Dec 20, 2008 - 14 comments

Dr. Park’s recent blog in his Sleep-Breathing Disorders Forum, titled “Do you sleep like a rock?, touched on a very important concept that I call the eight hour sleep myth. We have been told for years that more sleep is better and we need at least eight hours of sleep sleep to stay healthy. However, as Dr. Park noted, studies have shown that if your sleep duration is too short or too long, you'll have a higher likelihood of having heart disease or depression later in life.

In fact, numerous studies involving millions of people have now proven that 7 hours of sleep is associated with the greatest health and longevity. Although sleeping less than 7 hours is associated with increased health problems, sleeping longer than 7 hours is associated with more health problems than short sleep. This relationship holds true for not only heart disease and depression but also mortality rates, cancer, obesity, diabetes, and cholesterol.

The bottom line: We don’t have to worry about getting eight hours of sleep for our health. This is why many sleep specialists now recommend that most adults need between six to eight hours of sleep- but some may need less or more.

Dr. Gregg D. Jacobs

Post a Comment
Avatar universal
by rockcityaudiouk, Dec 20, 2008
Hmm,well I don't agree..I shall explain so please indulge me.
I usually sleep 10 hours a day, I'm now 44 and my diet has never been healthy,although I don't drink or smoke.
also  both my parents are meat eaters and smoke and drink,yet until recently both were in great shape at73 and 78 years.
My cholesterol is not through the roof only very slightly high and after a bank of tests have been told that I do not have CAD.(CT Angio).or any problem at all with my heart.
So I think,there is a lot of confusion with doctors like yourself,whom basically,just do not know anything for sure.
its just all guess work.
Sleep and eat what you think is healthy,(or what the docs tell you is healthy)but if your genetics are bad,you will still die early.

687614 tn?1244201579
by dancingheart, Dec 20, 2008
I tend to differ, I have had some insomnia issues that have taken me from usual 9 hours of slumber to now barely six.  I am suffering more with ailments than I have in the past...I have super high anxiety, at which sleep was keeping a bay... and my heart rhythm problems are much worse. I am one that needs sleep, or I don't do well, as is the current case... I can't wait until I sleep through the night with at least 8 hours sleep again!

Avatar universal
by Brenndy, Dec 21, 2008
Dr. Jacobs,

Thank you kindly for taking the time to provide the insomnia teleseminar moderated by Dr. Parks a few weeks ago.  I found the information you provided very informative, as well as helpful.

Happy Holidays.


365714 tn?1292202708
by MJIthewriter, Dec 21, 2008
Interesting that sleeping more than one's body requires can cause more problems. I notice with myself if I sleep longer than my average time, then I wake up feeling like I've been hit by a truck and feel just as bad as not getting enough sleep. I also notice a higher amount of sleep seems to trigger headaches more.

139792 tn?1498589250
by Dalubaba, Dec 21, 2008
Quality or quantity?REM or NONREM sleep?Continuous or interpeted sleep? these are more specific issue than the length of sleep.
Yog Nidra: a yogic device giving divine sleep.20 minutes of yog nidra is equivalent to 4 hours sleep.Yog Nidra cnsists of concentration,relexation, imagery, visualizing different state of body situation like heat and cold,heaviness and lightness,,flying and sswining etc.
It is also heard that a special soothing music can be created for a particular pattern of a brain.so customized music can be  created to give deep sleep.
If the research is focussed on such devices, I am sure sleep problem can be resolved.

325405 tn?1262293778
by 888mom, Dec 22, 2008
Yeah, and then add in a husband who snores (sleep apnea was ruled out however) . I get worse sleep than he does because I'm up half the night.  We've tried those nose strip things, special pillows, using a prescription allergy nasal spray, playing "white" noise in the background ... man, nothing works.  I have over sensitive ears too which I guess makes it my problem instead of his.  

So, should I sleep in a different room for my health since I ain't getting 7 hours of continuous sleep a night?  I know other women (including one of my sisters) in this same dilemma... and we're not the ones snoring!  It doesn't seem fair.

707647 tn?1251492147
by Gregg D Jacobs, Ph.D.Blank, Dec 22, 2008
It is surprising that sleep apnea has been ruled out so you may want to pose this question to Dr. Park in the Sleep Breathing Disorders forum as well.

I advise my patients in similar situations to sleep in a seperate room since this will improve sleep. In fact, sleeping with any bedpartner tends to cause more awakenings for both sleepers due to body movements.

389974 tn?1331018842
by swampcritter, Dec 22, 2008
Of course, a change in sleep length may be a symptom. When Swampy is very stressed (or possibly depressed though Swampy has never had a diagnosis of that), his sleep requirements can change considerably.

Avatar universal
by yve52, Dec 22, 2008
It may be of interest. When travelling for months around Europe and Africa I spoke with many people doing the same. We all found that rather than sleep in one long 'hit we had naturally begun sleeping in two short 'stretches'. Mostly we fell asleep around 2am and woke just before dawn.Then we fell asleep in the afternoon around 2am for a couple of hours.We were totally refreshed and wide awake the minute our eyes opened.I have never felt so well and alert.Yve

Avatar universal
by babarHou, Jan 04, 2009
I rarely get deep sleep. I keep thinking about things. More importantly when i sleep i get tired on one side and when i have to switch sides, it wakes me up many times.
For example when i sleep on right side the way i like, my right shoulder will begin to hurt and i would have to switch sides. Sometimes my lower knee will begin to hurt because of the weight of the higher knee. Same thing happens on the other side.
Sometimes i will go through many nights where i will not get any sleep at all. I feel miserable during the days.
Any help would be appreciated.

707647 tn?1251492147
by Gregg D Jacobs, Ph.D.Blank, Jan 04, 2009
If you want to sleep better, there are proven non-drug methods for improving sleep. The following is a list of the 10 most important behavioral (non-drug) techniques for improving your sleep:

1.The belief that everyone must get eight hours of sleep is a myth. People who live the longest sleep 7 hours per night, not eight, so don’t worry about getting 8 hours of sleep. Most people need between 6 and 8 hours of sleep to function effectively during the day.

2.Get out of bed within a half hour of the same time every day, including weekends, no matter how little or poorly you have slept.

3.Reduce your time in bed so that it more closely matches the amount of sleep you average each night.

4.Use the bedroom for sleep and sexual activity only.

5.Make sure you feel drowsy when you turn the lights off to go to sleep. If you do not fall asleep within 20-30 minutes, go to another room and engage in a quiet, relaxing activity until you feel drowsy.

6.Don’t take sleeping pills regularly. They have side effects and inconsistent benefits, particularly in older adults.

7.Practice relaxation techniques at bedtime including muscular relaxation, mental focusing, and breathing techniques.

8.Take an afternoon nap after a poor night’s sleep

9.Increase your exposure to early morning sunlight as soon as you wake up to establish a more consistent sleep rhythm.

10.Exercise by taking a brisk walk 3-6 hours before bedtime. This will improve your sleep by causing a greater rise and fall in your body temperature.

Dr. Gregg D. Jacobs

Avatar universal
by jrocker, May 04, 2009
Dr Jacobs
I used to consistently sleep for 8 hours a night AND take naps during the day before I started suffering chronic insomnia as a result of the loss of a loved one.  I have never had problems falling asleep but struggled to stay asleep during the night.  I became very stressed by this because I did not understand why I could not sleep, given that I felt so tired during the day and when awake at night.  I tried a range of therapies, including hypnotherapy, valerian pills, I started at a sleep disorder clinic (no CBT offered), and tried daily meditation.  None of these items in isolation improved my situation.  I then stumbled on a site which talked through one of your patient's examples, which worked on sleep restriction and CBT.  I bought your book and followed the same idea, as well as kept a sleep diary.  It worked!  However I seem to have relapsed into nightly awakenings.  I go to bed at 12.15am and wake at 6.45am, with a half hour awakening during the night. I have noticed that the combination of sleep restriction and meditation works best for me.  So I have started a regular meditation again.  Even though I am suffering a relapse, I feel I have the tools to resolve my problem and so do not feel stressed over loss of sleep.
The only thing that concerns me now is that I have moved from being an 8hr sleeper, to a 6hour sleep by following your methods.  I perform well during the day, and no longer take naps.
Am I getting enough sleep?  Has my sleep quality changed?  Or have I just learned to cope with less sleep?  Will I ever become an 8hr sleeper again?
Your thoughts on this would be valued.  And thank you, enormously, for your published work, it saved me!
Regards, D

Avatar universal
by bullelk, Jul 19, 2009
If one ( male) has a prostate problem which has'nt been fixed after many doctors, how does one work around getting up in the night to go P, many times and still get a decent nights sleep?

Avatar universal
by arindamatlekar, Jun 20, 2010
Thanks, Dr. Jacobs - for the 10 tips you have posted almost a year and a half ago! Tips 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, and 10 have been absolutely new to me and I had never heard about them prior to reading this post from you.
Thanks again!


Post a Comment