Have you ever wondered how much sleep you really need each night?
I used to think that eight hours in bed each night was sufficient. It was not until I started using WHOOP, a fitness wearable, that I learned the truth.
Each person has a unique sleep need that is based on a variety of factors. In addition, there are certain nights when you need much more rest than others. In this article, you will learn the six factors that determine how much sleep you really need each night.
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1. Your baseline
Your baseline is the starting point. It is the minimum amount of rest that you need every twenty-four hours, before accounting for the other factors noted below. According to WHOOP, the average baseline sleep need is 7.6 hours.1
2. Your recent Strain
The second factor is the Strain that your body takes on each day from stress, exercise, and other activities. More Strain today requires more sleep tonight.
Regardless of your activity level, your Strain will likely fluctuate throughout each week. For example, my Strain typically adds 20-30 minutes to my baseline each night. However, there are many nights when the actual number is lower or higher.
3. Your recent Sleep Performance
Another key factor is your recent Sleep Performance. If you don’t get all the rest that you need, you start to build up what is known as a sleep debt. When that happens, the amount of rest that you need for the next night increases. The average WHOOP member has a sleep debt each night of over one hour.2
4. Your recent naps
Whether or not you take any naps during the day is another factor. Any time spent napping will reduce the amount of rest that you need that night. As written here, naps can be an effective way to catch up on not sleeping enough the night before.
5. Your Sleep Efficiency
Your Sleep Efficiency is the percentage of your time in bed that you are actually asleep. Many people do not realize that “time asleep” is often much lower than “time in bed.” The less efficient that you are as a sleeper, the more time that you actually need to spend in bed each night to be at your best the next day.
6. Your performance goal for tomorrow
The final factor is your performance goal for tomorrow. If you want to be at your best tomorrow, then you need to spend more time asleep tonight.
However, there might be certain days (i.e. while on vacation or during the weekend) when you are fine with being at less than 100% of your best. In that case, you could aim for less time asleep.
Note: WHOOP provides your “recommended time in bed” each night based on your performance goal for tomorrow and the other factors noted above.
Summary and Final Thoughts
The average WHOOP member needs about 8.5 hours of sleep each night in order to be at their best the next day.3 To actually be asleep for 8.5 hours though, the average WHOOP member needs to spend slightly more than nine hours in bed.4
Your ideal number might be higher or lower for a given night. In addition, your ideal number is not the same each night. It changes based on six factors:
- Your baseline
- Your recent Strain
- Your recent Sleep Performance
- Your recent naps
- Your Sleep Efficiency
- Your performance goal for tomorrow
If you want to optimize your sleep and performance, I recommend you use WHOOP. Their personalized recommendations will tell you exactly how much sleep you need to get each night. You can click here to get your first month with WHOOP for free.
If you choose not to join WHOOP, you can estimate your recommended time in bed for a given night by following these three steps:
- Assume your baseline need is 7.6 hours (the average baseline for WHOOP members).
- Add an extra 30-60 minutes if you take on a lot of Strain today, or if you didn’t sleep well last night.
- Add another 30 minutes to cover any time in bed when you might not actually be asleep.
Then, determine how well you want to perform the next day:
- If you want to be at your absolute best, aim for 100% of the number estimated above.
- If you want to perform well, aim for 85-100% of that number.
- If you are okay just getting by, aim for 70-85% of that number.
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About the author: Pete Leibman is the Creator of StrongerHabits.com. He is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and executive recruiter, and his work has been featured on Fox News, CBS Radio, and CNNMoney.com. His latest book is titled Work Stronger: Habits for More Energy, Less Stress, and Higher Performance at Work.
References for this article