Can you actually train your body to need less sleep?

Marie Claire Dorking
Should we be focussing on the quality not quantity of sleep we're getting? [Photo: Unsplash via Pexels]
Should we be focussing on the quality not quantity of sleep we’re getting? [Photo: Unsplash via Pexels]

So much to do, so little time to do it! Sound familiar? If only we could use the time we’re meant to be in bed sleeping. Well, that might just be doable as according to one sleep expert it is actually possible to train your body to need less sleep.

Professor Jim Horne, sleep neuroscientist at Loughborough University, claims that most of us can actually make do with just six hours shut eye a night. Better still you can actually get your body to adapt to surviving on those precious six hours in around a month.

Though it has been well publicised that the average adult needs between seven and nine hours sleep a night to stop all manner of sleep-deprived nasties (getting your office grump on, off-the-scale eye bags, no libido and more!), Professor Horne argues that the number of hours people need to sleep actually differs from person to person.

What’s more he believes that concerns about not getting your nightly zeds quota are often somewhat overblown.

“I’m not advocating people get less sleep, but I’m advocating that people should not worry so much about not getting enough sleep,” he told Time.

“Especially if you’re not sleepy in the day and you’re having a fulfilling wakefulness, then you are getting enough sleep irrespective of how much you’re getting,” he continued.

Professor Horne believes it is possible to cut down your nightly sleep quota to around six hours a night, plus a short nap during the day (And who doesn’t love a good nap), but it must be done gradually over a period of four weeks.

To claw back some extra awake time Professor Horne recommends firstly staring a sleep routine ie wake up at the same time, every day, every week (and no cheating at weekends!). Then start going to bed twenty minutes later for a week at a time. The following week, go to bed forty minutes later, and a week after an hour later.

Keep doing this until you are down to just six hours and still functioning properly the next day.

Can you train your body to need less sleep? [Photo: Pixabay via Pexels]
Can you train your body to need less sleep? [Photo: Pixabay via Pexels]

But though this sleep training hack might work well for some, Horne says he wouldn’t recommend it for those who already feel like their sleep time is compromised. And if you can’t get through the day without chugging the caffeine or are showing any other of the sneaky signs you’re sleep deprived, then six hours is probably not going to be enough for you. And the effects of lack of ZZZs are often more far-reaching than bleary eyes and oversized yawns. Because while one bad night’s sleep won’t do much more than turn us into a groggy, grouchy grump, long-term sleep deprivation can have far more serious consequences for our health and body including leading to heart problems and obesity.

The moral of the story? You may well be one of the lucky ones who don’t need much shuteye, in which case give the whole body training thing a go. But if you find less snooze time = a groggier, grumpier, growlier you, then you might just have to accept you’re gonna need more bed and zeds.

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