Why 5 Hours of Sleep Is Better Than 8 Hours

Conventional wisdom within sleep medicine says 7 to 8 hours of sleep is ideal. Less than 5 hours or more than 9 hours is associated with much higher rates of depression, diabetes, stroke, and dying in general.

Then why is it that some people feel great after sleeping only 4 to 5 hours, but feel terrible if they sleep 7 to 8 hours? In many cases, they’ll just wake up automatically after 5 hours without any alarms. Here’s one possible explanation:

Normally during sleep, you’ll go through 4 to 5 sleep cycles. In the beginning of the night, you’ll spend more time in deep sleep (or slow wave sleep, stages 3 and 4). Notice with each cycle, stages 3 and 4 get shorter and shorter, while stage REM gets longer and longer. Around the 5 hour mark, notice that the REM period begins to lengthen significantly. (Note: recently, stages 3 and 4 have been combined into N3).

hypnogramStage REM  (rapid eye movement) is when you’re dreaming. A peculiar aspect of REM sleep is that your entire body becomes paralyzed, expect for your eye muscles and diaphragm. Rapid eye movements are seen when you’re dreaming.

Whether or not you have obstructive sleep apnea, if you are susceptible to sleep-breathing problems, you may have a prolonged period of obstructed breathing during the first long period of REM, which happens to coincide around 5 hours. Lack of muscle tone in your throat during REM sleep can be a problem if you have small airways from having a small mouth. Three to six AM is also when people with OSA are most likely to have heart attacks

I’ve also had patients tell me that their sleep quality improves after taking an antidepressant. The interesting thing about antidepressants is that many of these medications lower REM sleep significantly. So the less often you have choking and apneic episodes during REM sleep, the better you’ll feel when you wake up. REM sleep is associated with creativity and certain types of memory. However, REM deprivation may be a small price to pay for waking up more refreshed after only 5 hours of sleep. We also know that prolonged REM sleep deprivation can lead to hunger, anxiety, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.

Are you someone who wakes up more refreshed if you sleep only 4 to 5 hours? What happens to you when you oversleep?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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7 thoughts on “Why 5 Hours of Sleep Is Better Than 8 Hours

  1. this is definitely true, I will tend to feel better after my 6 hours, after which I invariably wake up, than if I sleep longer. however, I think that I would feel best if I could sleep the 8 hours without sleep apnea….. it’s all a compromise when it comes to the human airway.

  2. I have severe OSA treated by CPAP. If I get anything under 7 hours I feel terrible. I don’t usually sleep more than seven though.

  3. Definitely true for me — if I get 6 hours I am often able to function OK if a bit tired. If I then try to sleep 2-3 more hours, I wake up completely exhausted (that feeling like there’s nothing left in the tank). Have been diagnosed with CFS, but I am about 90% sure that there is a substantial UARS component.

  4. I pop up after 5 hours of sleep and feel way more rested then 8-9. I do have very small features so the comment about small mouth/airways interests me. Would like to learn more!

  5. I’m not refreshed with only a small amount of sleep. Maybe if it feels like I was, I forgot what refreshing sleep feels like. I have strange effects too from being sleep deprived. My ear drum has a greater tendency to flutter and there’s a greater chance of hearing turbulent sounds from an ear after eating lunch. Could they be caused by microsleeps and increased blood pressure. Sleep apnea is known to increase BP maybe because of the lack of deep sleep.

  6. If I sleep 2-4 hours a night I am full of energy and can run circles around people. I feel fully regenerated. But, if I sleep more than 4-5 hrs I wake up with my entire body hurting tremendously. I ache all day long and I can’t focus. I feel completely drained of all energy and feel dazed. I don’t want to move at all, in fact it takes all my energy to stand up and do anything. My anxiety goes through the roof and I feel like someone is sitting on my chest. Even when I have anxiety I feel drained and verily able to move. Usually my anxiety on 2-4 hours of sleep helps me do stuff so I stay focused on other things and get my mind off my anxiety. Anxiety makes u feel like u got to do something and u can’t sit still but not on the days I sleep. I’m moody a lot and my stamina in the bedroom has diminished and putting a strain on my relationship of 8 years. I get mad over the stupidest things and dont know why. I laugh about it afterwards like wtf…I crave sugary foods and gain weight no matter what I do. I have watched what I ate counted calories and all and still didn’t loss anything after months of doing it. I walked, did yoga and exercised and after 3 months of depriving myself and becoming obsessed I became discouraged and ended back up eating those foods again and sometimes…who am I kidding…a lot of the times no matter how hard I try to stay away from certain foods, I can’t its like an impulse, I can’t control. I have been like this for past 12 years and I don’t know what to do. I know this isn’t normal nor good for my health I’m reaching 40yrs old and know I need to take action. Doctors just want to load me up on antidepressants and tell me to go to counseling. When they give me sleeping meds I get even worse. I can’t take allergy meds or anything that makes me drowsy cuz I won’t be able to wake up the next day and feel awful even if I get 2-4 hrs that would normally make me feel amazing! Any one have any suggestions? How do I get doctors to listen to me in order to help me. Its like they think I crazy or something.. They look at me strangely and think they know me better than I know myself. Ive been to good 5 doctors in past 12 yrs….

  7. The information above is really interesting to me. I’ve been diagnosed with moderate Sleep apnea from screeing test and doctor suspected it might be due to my tonsils being too big and suggested me to get a full sleep test at the hospital and also considered having a tonsilectomy which I have yet to decide on both.

    I started using smart bracelet to track my sleeping and an application to track my snoring more often then and I found that I usually woke up around 7am automatically after I got to bed around 1am and I felt energized! that’s only 4-5 hours of sleep. Back in the days I would try to sleep more and woke up again around 10-11 am and sometimes I felt worse It’s like I’d used most of my energy to forced my eyes to shut and although I’d feel refreshed but it’s definitely feel worse than jumping off bed after 5 hours of sleep.

    As for snoring results. Surprisingly I didn’t snore at all but my breathing can get kinda heavy and it certainly sounded like and my airway is kinda small due to unknown reasons.