Home Health How to live longer: The ‘optimal’ number of hours of sleep to...

How to live longer: The ‘optimal’ number of hours of sleep to increase longevity


When you’re not getting enough quality sleep, you will know about – if you wake up not feeling refreshed or alert, something is off; the feeling of lethargy might extend throughout the whole day. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NIH) identified two basic types of sleep:

  • REM (Rapid Eye Movement)
  • Non-REM

Non-REM is known as “deep sleep” whilst REM sleep is when a person is dreaming.

The NIH refer to “sleep debt”, where getting less than seven hours of sleep per night does add up.

“For example, if you lose two hours of sleep each night, you’ll have a sleep debt of 14 hours after a week,” explained the NIH.

Playing catch-up by sleeping for longer during your days off work can upset the body’s sleep-wake rhythm.

Am I sleep deficient?

If you feel like you could fall asleep during the following activities, then you’re more than likely sleep deficient:

  • Sitting and reading or watching TV
  • Sitting still in a public place, such as a movie theatre, meeting, or classroom
  • Riding in a car for an hour without stopping
  • Sitting and talking to someone
  • Sitting quietly after lunch
  • Sitting in traffic for a few minutes

In the hours leading up to bedtime, it’s advisable to avoid large meals and alcoholic beverages.

The NIH added that people should avoid caffeine too, which can be found in hot chocolate, soda, coffee, tea, and chocolate.

Caffeine is a stimulant, which can interfere with good quality sleep – as can nicotine.

Bear in mind that caffeine can last as long as eight hours, so a cup of coffee in the afternoon might not be the best idea.


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