Our readers are invited to email us with their questions!
Q: How can I not be stressed as I watch the clock tick away and eat into my precious hours of sleep? (Isaac L.)
A: Isaac, take the clock away, so you’re not tempted to look at it. The more you look at it, the more you’ll feel pressure. Think of your time in bed as a window of opportunity for sleep, versus a schedule. You want to protect that window by trying to avoid things that aren’t sleep promoting, like looking at a clock. That clock is just going to make you more anxious.
Many people think, ‘I need to go to bed at this time, and wake up at this time.’ But going to bed at the same time every single night isn’t necessarily helpful. It puts too much pressure on you. Sometimes you’re not sleepy. Thinking of that time as a window of opportunity for sleep gives people some flexibility.
Q: Can some of the most successful people really live off just four to six hours of sleep? (Kimberly J.)
A: Kimberly, there are some people who do very well with very little sleep. Most people aren’t like that. A lot of people are used to being chronically sleep deprived, and compensate with caffeine or short involuntary naps. So not everyone who gets that little sleep is really at their best. If they did performance tests, they might realize that they’re not performing as well as they could.
There are successful people and there are people who live off of four to six hours of sleep. They’re usually not the same people. Think about it as a bell shaped curve. The average is between seven and eight. It’s possible to be in the tails of that curve and be fine. But once you get below six, you run a greater risk of having issues. The best way to know is whether you’re sleepy during the day. Are you falling asleep unintentionally? Are you having trouble concentrating? That’s a pretty clear sign that you’re not getting sufficient sleep.