There is no “golden” number of hours that is the perfect amount of sleep, and subjective sleep quality (whether we feel we have had a good night’s sleep or not) is as significant as duration. Two people can sleep for a similar amount of time with similar periods of wakefulness, and yet perceive it very differently. In general, eight hours is usually quoted for adults; children and young adults will need more and the elderly less. However, it is important not to get too hooked on numbers, particularly if you do have trouble sleeping, since there may be a tendency to constantly measure how you are doing and then feel disappointed if you are falling short.
Try this to work out the number of hours’ sleep that is best for you:
Step 1 Pay off any sleep debt by getting plenty of sleep. You may need to do this while you’re on vacation!
Step 2 Using 7 ½ hours as a starting point, count back from the time you need to get up and make that your bedtime (factor in a short period of “falling-asleep time”).
Step 3 Begin going to bed at that time for at least a week or, better still, ten days, and notice whether you begin waking up just before your alarm.
If after ten days you still need the alarm, go to bed a little earlier and continue until you find the right duration for you. If you have the flexibility to get up at any time, another option is to go to bed at the same time each night and notice when you wake up naturally, without any outside interference. Doing this over a period of a couple weeks will allow you to determine how much sleep you personally need.
This blog has been extracted from Mindfulness and Sleep by Anna Black.