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You absolutely have to get 7-9 hours of sleep every single night!

If you don’t get that amount of sleep then all kinds of dreadful things will happen! 

You will DIE before your time!

Your brain will age and you will become demented and useless in old age!

 If you don’t sleep this amount, you will change key appetite hormones and become fat and diabetic!

Scaring you awake?

I don’t know about you, but I am really don't like this kind of talk that is floating around out there.

I don’t know when the bloggers, doctors, and naturalists will catch up, but you don’t change people by scaring them. 

In fact, research actually shows the reverse. 

Try to scare people into action and you will likely cause the reverse of the effect you intended.

I felt like I knew a lot about sleep before, but as I delved into the research, I started to see that like many things in the world of wellness and natural medicine, there is a ridiculous amount of misinformation out there. 

Much of that poor information and the scare tactics that accompany it are making people’s sleeping habits worse rather than better.

Let’s start with the premise that “you must sleep for 7-9 hours each night.”

I certainly believed that for a long time.  But I have learned the amount of sleep needed varies considerably from person to person.

Not everyone needs the same amount of sleep

Research shows that there are early sleepers (usually referred to as larks) and late sleepers (usually called owls). 

Larks are the early to bed early to rise folks. 

Owls are the late to bed late to rise people. 

And of course, there are all kinds of people in between.

There are also those who are short sleepers who seem to do fine on less sleep, and long sleepers, who require more sleep. 

There also appears to be a level of sleep that is too short (less than 5 or six hours) and too long (greater than 9 or 10 hours) for almost everyone.

From working with clients, I can tell you people stress tremendously about sleep.

 This is only intensified when they go see a doctor or natural health practitioner who starts rattling off how many diseases they will have, how fast they will age and how prematurely they will die if they don’t get to sleep.

As I alluded to before, those with difficulty sleeping are incredibly susceptible to worry and stress in and around bedtime.  This worry about whether they will be able to sleep is, ironically, one of the main causes of not being able to sleep. 

I know, crazy right?

How much sleep do you really need?

I want to help you understand what the science actually says about how much sleep you need.

Truth is, it is different for everyone and sleep scientists have found a few methods to help you determine your sleep need.  

Method 1: The Wake-Up Call

This exercise takes about two weeks to complete. The first thing you do is choose a set time to wake up. 

Make sure this time is sufficiently early so that you will not inadvertently be woken up by something else sooner (like a child or your neighbor’s rooster). 

Also, realize that this wake-up time must hold for all 14 days including both weekdays and weekends. This set and stable wake-up time is critical.
Once you establish your wake up time, you should just behave normally at night.

Go to bed ONLY when you are tired and not based on what time you think you should go to bed. 

When you are tired, go to sleep; otherwise, stay up.

Within two weeks your body will begin falling into line with what researchers call your “sleep drive.”  Sleep drive is the effortless tendency of your body to naturally seek a balance between waking and sleeping. 

Since your wake up time is the same every single day, the body will begin regulating its level of tiredness (sleep drive) to coincide with the exact number of hours it needs to sleep.

Within a few days, your body will naturally find its optimal bedtime.

At the end of the two weeks, look back over the previous weeks' sleep and calculate the average number of hours you slept. 

According to sleep researchers, this is a reliable indicator of how much sleep you really need.

So, this method would be done by:

Set a standard wake up time. (I.e. 6am).
Wake at the standard wake up time each day for 14 days.
Each night go to bed only when tired
During the last week, average the number of hours you slept.  This is your sleep need.

Method 2: Free Running Method.

This method takes a week of dedicated focus on sleep.  Because of this, it is best done during a week of vacation.

In this method, you turn off your alarm clock and allow yourself the luxury to sleep in as long as you like.  However, you must set a standard time to go to bed each night.

After a day or two, you will have paid off what sleep researchers call “sleep debt,” and your hours in bed will remain fairly constant for the rest of the week. In other words, you will no longer be able to “over-sleep.”

In this method, the average hours between sleep time and wake time is how much sleep your body needs.

So here it is again in bullets:

Set a standard bedtime (i.e. 11:00 pm)
Allow yourself to sleep and wake naturally the next morning without the aid of an alarm
After the first few days, make note of the average hours you spent sleeping.

Here are some interesting facts about sleep you may be shocked to know.

Singing lessons can reduce snoring by over 30% (a quick set of mouth exercises can do the same thing)

When insomniacs are monitored in sleeping wards, they report only three hours of sleep on average while researchers show they are actually sleeping only double that. Is insomnia all in the mind?

If you had a horrible night of sleep and are tired, a six-minute nap can have a profound impact on restoring mental function

Naps are one of the most effective natural treatments for high blood pressure

Humans in natural conditions (i.e. who have no artificial light) naturally wake in the middle of the night for about an hour and then have a “second sleep.” (is nighttime waking natural?)

Even a small amount of blue light (prevalent in TVs, mobile devices, pads, computers) can dramatically cut melatonin levels and stimulate you to not be able to sleep.

Sleep deprivation dramatically decreases self-control, making people more likely to lie, cheat, steal and overeat.

The scent of lavender has been proven a good sleep aid.