Is It Possible to Get Less Sleep but Feel Rested and Productive?

Posted by Leah Li on

Getting a full night’s sleep not only feels good, but it also improves your mental performance and boosts your overall health. Most adults need more than 7 hoursTrusted Source per night for optimal well-being. Children and teenagers need even more to support their development.

Teens should sleep 8 to 10 hours per night, grade-schoolers 9 to 12 hours, and preschoolers 10 to 13 hours.

Many people wonder if it’s possible to “hack” their sleep so that they spend fewer hours in bed but still wake up feeling rested and productive. The short answer is yes and no — but mostly no.

The quality of your sleep plays a role in determining how rested you’ll feel when you wake. Improving your sleep quality can reduce the number of hours you need to spend in bed.

However, even if your sleep quality is great, sleeping for fewer hours than what’s recommended is detrimental to your health and mental performance. You may be able to do it for a few days, but eventually, the lack of rest will catch up with you.

Keep reading to find out why it isn’t possible to feel rested after getting only 4 hours of sleep per night over a long period. We’ll also look at why some people seem to be able function off much less sleep than others.

For most people, 4 hours of sleep per night isn’t enough to wake up feeling rested and mentally alert, no matter how well they sleep.

There’s a common myth that you can adapt to chronically restricted sleep, but there’s no evidence that the body functionally adapts to sleep deprivation.

Also, people who exercise regularly often need more than the minimum recommended hours to give their bodies time to regenerate from the additional physical stress.

A 2018 study that examined the sleep habits of more than 10,000 people found that regularly getting 4 hours of sleep per night was the equivalent of adding 8 years of aging to the participants’ brains.

Getting fewer than 7 hours of sleep per night over a long period may increase your risk for developing complications like:

  • depression
  • obesity
  • hypertension
  • anxiety
  • diabetes
  • obstructive sleep apnea
  • stroke
  • psychosis
  • cardiovascular disease

Sleep requirement genetic mutation

There’s one caveat when it comes to how much sleep you need: Everybody’s body is different, and some people can thrive off fewer hours of sleep than others.

Scientists have found a rare mutation of the ADRB1 gene in people who are able to feel rested with less than 6.5 hoursTrusted Source of sleep per night without any apparent health consequences.

If you carry this gene mutation, it’s possible that you may feel rested even if you consistently sleep less than the recommended number of hours.


Polyphasic sleep

Polyphasic sleep refers to sleeping multiple times in a 24-hour period instead of once per night.

There are many different polyphasic techniques. One of the most common programs involves taking six 20-minute naps spaced equally throughout the day for a total of 3 hours a day.

Many people claim that polyphasic sleep allows you to sleep more efficiently and achieve the same amount of rest in fewer hours. However, there’s no medical evidence that polyphasic sleep is better than traditional sleep.

Sleep deprivation on polyphasic programs likely has the same negative health consequences as other forms of sleep deprivation. However, there’s limited research on these types of programs, since the vast majority of people who follow polyphasic programs only stick with them for a short time.


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