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You Might Not Actually Need 8 Hours of Sleep

L'Oreal Thompson Payton

March 4, 20244 minutes

When it comes to good sleep habits, so many of us have been told we need eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. But as a new parent firmly in my #ToddlerMom era, that’s often easier said than done. Thankfully, it turns out that consistent sleep habits may hold the key to a good night’s rest more than the amount of hours. 

“The amount of sleep is only part of the equation for healthy sleep,” says Jade Wu, Ph.D., behavioral sleep medicine specialist, author of Hello Sleep, and Hatch medical expert. “What’s just as important, if not sometimes more important, is the timing of your sleep, the consistency of your sleep, the quality of your sleep, and whether it matches your natural circadian rhythms.”

To start, there’s no one-size-fits-all recommendation when it comes to the total hours of sleep a person needs as it can depend on a variety of factors, including age and lifestyle. Generally speaking, we tend to need more sleep when we’re younger and less sleep when we’re older.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of sleep for young adults and adults and seven to eight hours for older adults. But some people may need more or less. As such, Dr. Wu suggests sleeping as much as your body needs rather than aiming for a set amount.

To find your ideal amount of time, Wu recommends starting with a consistent rise time of 7AM, seeing how rested you feel, and adjusting the number of hours you sleep accordingly.

“You don’t want to go to bed so early that you’re still wide awake, and you don’t want to go to bed so late that you’re struggling to stay awake,” she says. 

There is also research that suggests women need more sleep than men based on hormonal differences and other life factors, such as caregiving and work responsibilities. In general, Wu says it’s the timing of our sleep -- not necessarily the quantity of sleep -- that’s more important. 

“We’re all sort of naturally wired to be a morning person or night owl, or somewhere in between,” she says. “This is very much a real, biological thing.” 

A tip from Hatch: You can use your Hatch Restore device to cue you when it’s time to unwind. Setting up a consistent bedtime reminder with your Restore is fundamental for healthier sleep habits.

So if the timing of your sleep can be just as important as the total number of hours you sleep, then it’s important to listen to your body’s natural inclination towards rest at certain times.

Knowing your body’s chronotype, which is your tendency to sleep at certain times of the day versus others, and working with it rather than against it is key to a good night’s rest and your overall health. This could be a better place to focus your energy than focusing solely on time spent in slumber. 

A tip from Hatch: If you’re a Hatch+ member, you can program an Unwind routine to help prepare you for bedtime. Check out guided meditations or “Pillow Talk,” a new “comfort audio” offering. 

Exercise and habits like exposure to bright light during the day, which helps our bodies regulate our internal clocks, help us sleep better at night. 

While there is ample research and recommendations about how much sleep you need to feel your best, ultimately you have to listen to your body to determine the appropriate amount for you. Even then, it’s likely that number may change throughout different seasons of your life. Adjust (and sleep) accordingly.