Optimal Sleep Duration

Optimal Sleep Duration
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What may be the optimal number of hours to sleep, on average, every night to maximize health and longevity?

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But what is enough, and is more better? Just this year, researchers found what appears to be the magic number of hours to sleep, on average, every night to minimize risk of cancer, stroke, and heart disease. Sleep fewer hours, and mortality goes up; sleep any longer, and mortality goes up.

To maximize health and longevity, is the optimal sleep duration six hours? Seven hours? Eight hours? Nine hours? Or ten hours? And for those of you thinking “What about 12 hours?” No.

Well, it’s not six. And it’s not ten. It’s not eight, either. The optimum amount of sleep to get, on average, every night to live longest is seven hours of sleep, according to this important new study this year.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to anemoneprojectors via Flickr.

But what is enough, and is more better? Just this year, researchers found what appears to be the magic number of hours to sleep, on average, every night to minimize risk of cancer, stroke, and heart disease. Sleep fewer hours, and mortality goes up; sleep any longer, and mortality goes up.

To maximize health and longevity, is the optimal sleep duration six hours? Seven hours? Eight hours? Nine hours? Or ten hours? And for those of you thinking “What about 12 hours?” No.

Well, it’s not six. And it’s not ten. It’s not eight, either. The optimum amount of sleep to get, on average, every night to live longest is seven hours of sleep, according to this important new study this year.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to anemoneprojectors via Flickr.

Doctor's Note

Check out these videos for more on sleep:
Kiwifruit for Insomnia
Tart Cherries for Insomnia

And check out the prequel: Sleep & Immunity

Also see my associated blog post, Eating To Extend Our Lifespan.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

26 responses to “Optimal Sleep Duration

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  1. Hi Dr. Greger!
    I recently had a sleep study done and was diagnosed with mild sleep apnea and severe periodic limb movement disorder. I am 28, of normal weight, and do not want to sleep with a CPAP machine for the rest of my life, so I was wondering if you knew of any nutrition based or alternative treatments for these disorders. I do know that anemia is connected with periodic limb movement and right now my ferritin is 37 (started at 12). I’ve heard that ferritin levels between 70 and 90 are optimal. Do you know anything about this?

    Thanks!

  2. Hello Dr. Greger. I am a sleep therapist and have a question. Did this study cited in the video test subjects at differnt ages. We currently teach different total hours of sleep needed depending on age. HGH in children is better utilized and produced during Delta sleep. (conitued research has shown me I know nothing*gulp*)

    1. Hey I have recently been wondering if sleeping for 90 mins 4 times a day increases HGH levels at all. What benefits are there to breaking up sleep cycles?

  3. Dr. G. I have a question about optimal duration for people who do rigorous exercise. If one eats vegan drinks enough water and does everything they are supposed to do nutritionally how much does the variable of intense rigorous exercise and sort about 5 times a week affect the equation. Is 7 hours still the magic number?

  4. How do we know that the sleep duration causes morbidity rather than that it is simply associated with it? Could it be that people who are unwell already, though without knowing it, sleep longer?

    1. As you mentioned there are many variables and the study just provides correlational data so you have to be careful when attributing a causal relationship. Based on the article and others cited it appears that regular sleep of 7 – 8 hours duration is best when studying populations. However, I’m sure there are variations between individuals and their individual situations.

  5. So, 8 hours in bed, then, allowing for pee breaks and going to sleep/waking up and Other Stuff. Possibly up to 9 hours, just to make sure there’s plenty of time… I think we need to schedule in more than 7 hours, yes? To make sure we get the requisite amount.

    And after being sleep-deprived for some time (children) I was sleeping 8-9 hours for a few months. That + catch-up nights are not going to kill us earlier, right? We modern humans are a tad inconsistent… On that note: does having children and having our sleep messed up mean we’ll live longer or shorter lives? All the centenarians I’ve met have had children, but that’s a small sample size… and I’m going off on a tangent here…

  6. Since the psychology of dreams is my specialty, I have experimented with various sleep patterns and lengths.

    My favorite is sleeping 5 hours at night and 2-3 in the afternoon. Over a year of this, my desired sleep was reduced from 8 to 7 hours per 24 hours. Best of all, I felt I got to live a double life. For example, at my annual ski weeks in Zermatt, When sleeping in two “sleeps” I could ski with the serious skiers from 8 am to 4pm, take my nap, missing the group apres-ski drink then dinner and dancing till 1am with the snow bunnies. Before that I had to choose between my delights.

    However this pattern is so unlike the dominant one in the US that I have let it go and now sleep in one stretch. This way, I usually need a full 8 hours to feel happy and energetic.

    Steve Allen, Host of the original “Tonight” show, author of 40 books and many, many songs, and creator of “The Meeting of Minds” PBS shows wrote me that he absolutely needed 10 hours of sleep. No one can say he was not creative and productive. However, I do not know any of the details of his health and cause of death. AH but what a life he lived!

  7. Have you ever heard of anyone being sensitive to omega 3’s . . . in that they cause insomnia. . . not sure if that is a slow metabolizing problem . . .
    or what? Thanks so much! I just found out about you today!

    1. Elizabeth: I don’t personally have an answer to your question, but I wanted to welcome you to NutritionFacts.org. It really is a great resource. I encourage you to check out all the amazing videos on this site. Most of the videos are very short, single-topic focused. However, you might also want to check out Dr. Greger’s two hour-long presentations that summarize some of the latest info. They are great talks that blew me away!:

      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/uprooting-the-leading-causes-of-death/

      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/more-than-an-apple-a-day-preventing-our-most-common-diseases/

      Hopefully someone else will have an answer to your question about omega 3s. Though please keep in mind that a great many of the questions that people ask on this site have an a answer of, “we don’t know yet” and often do not get answered.

      Good luck.

  8. Dr. G or NF Team,
    For years I have heard the early-to-bed, early-to-rise folks claim that the hours of sleep before midnight are worth twice as much as the hours after 12am. So, for example, if I’m up till midnight but my schedule allows me to sleep in to 8am (12-8), I’m not getting the same “quantity” as someone who hits the sack at 10pm and gets up at 6am. Or maybe what they really mean is that the hours before midnight are worth more – that the quality of that sleep is somehow higher. You thoughts?

    1. Perhaps the quality of sleep may be higher when sleeping earlier, but it sounds more subjective to me. Based on personal experience, the quality of sleep is poorer the later I sleep. Perhaps too the later we sleep, the less hours we have before light creeps through the window blinds. Of course, this is all my personal hypothesis.

      1. I was hoping there might be some sleep research that would speak to the assertion that the hours before midnight are worth twice as much as the hours after.

  9. I hypothesise that sleep duration is affected by health, and diet can impact on this. So if your diet has inadequate intake of antioxidants, then your body may sleep longer for enhanced recovery. Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant after all! A study looking at diet and sleep duration would be useful.

  10. Do you have any nutrition based suggestions for treating borderline narcolepsy? My mom was on Provigil for years but stopped taking it because it was causing her to have chest pain. She is having trouble staying awake at work despite drinking caffinated beverages throughout the day.

  11. I had been using a bedtime combo of 2500mg taurine, 2500mg L-tryptophan, one or two Benadryl, as well as magnesium glycinate supplements with dinner, and found it to really help me sleep through the night and keep my restless legs more restful. (I got the restless legs thing as a side effect of taking Abilify for several years, and even though I’ve been off it, and all psychotropics, for several years, I’m stuck with the damn restless legs sometimes.) I would like to stop using the supplements and Benadryl and use natural sleep assistance to sleep through the night like I used to. I’ve seen Dr. Greger’s mention of kiwis to help sleep, and I’ve read elsewhere about banana peel tea, so I’m gonna have a go with these. I’m also now, at age 51, starting menopause and getting some hot flashes… woo-hoo!

    I just recently discovered this website and Dr. Greger’s book, and am thrilled with his work and his ethics; not in it for profit, but just to help people. I’m eagerly awaiting the cook book!
    Thanks for all you do, Dr. Greger! :-)

  12. April,

    I’m certain that Dr. Greger appreciates your comments and I too am waiting for the cookbook.

    You might consider trying some changes to your supplements and the OTC Benadryl. I would encourage you to discontinue the Benadryl as it has an adverse effect on sleep architecture and should only be used infrequently, if and only if needed. http://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/495339

    Have you started to check your sleep via a phone app. There are many free apps that can be very helpful so consider this as one means of knowing if your going in the right direction.

    Have you tried 5 hydroxytryptophan ?…. a bit further up the chemical chain which sometimes is much more effective. Also consider some additional vitamin B6, preferably in the active form, pyridoxal 5 phosphate. This can be synergetic with the tryptophane….. and of course I would be remiss not to mention taking the endo product, melatonin. Try the low dose first…. 0.5mg at bedtime and you can safely increase to higher doses, as needed.

    Keep in mind that your hormones, lifestyle, bedroom situation (light/noise/partner/etc) are all influencing factors as well…… A good evaluation might be helpful.

    Dr. Alan Kadish moderator for Dr. Greger http://www.Centerofhealth.com

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