Of late there have been a lot of expert opinions coming up on the number of hours one should sleep, the optimal duration in children, adults and the elderly. Many of these are misleading, especially so because most of consumers of such information are generally naive about the subject and they often read it superficially which does more harm than good!
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A numerical expression of the number of hours one should sleep in day is often a misguiding concept, from the perspective of the end user of such data. It is because the optimal sleep in human beings encompasses more than just the number of hours one has to sleep. For human beings to obtain maximum amount of benefit from their sleep certain others factors are also to be taken into consideration.
One such factor is the timing of sleep. Many people who sleep lesser in the night because of one reason or the other believe that they can compensate for the same by sleeping in smaller durations. For example if medically the optimal amount of sleep is 6 hours, sleeping thrice for a duration of 2 hours each would not be equivalent to sleeping six hours in continuity!
Medical truths or recommendations can be deleterious if studied in isolation. Their interpretation by common man is not a wise idea. Most of us may not know that human beings have to be asleep at least 6 hours before they attain their lowest body temperature and this is actually what the optimal sleep in human beings is; 6 hours with the right timing.
The timing of the sleep is important for the process of healing and rejuvenation of an individual. It also means that the sleep is in accordance with the circadian rhythm (body’s internal clock). Two circadian markers appear during our sleep, just after we cross the middle phase of our sleep to the time we wake up. These are accompanied by the secretion of hormone melatonin in maximum concentration and a fall in the temperature of the body. Unless these markers appear in sleep, one does not get the entire benefit, feels tired and stressed all the time.
Generally a very good indicator of adequate sleep is the absence of daytime sleepiness. However there are people who suffer from sleep state misperception. They feel sleepiness during the day time despite having slept adequately because of a mental perception of sleep inadequacy.
Many studies have come to the fore that link sleep to mortality. For example, there are some researches which indicate that people who sleep more than 7-8 hours die soon. Similarly there are other theories which claim that people who sleep between 6-8 hours live longer. A big question mark remains of the credibility of such research findings. Be very careful in choosing what to believe!