It’s no big secret that most of us aren’t getting enough sleep…
But it’s only recently that I discovered that the average person actually sleeps a whole hour LESS than the amount of time they’re laying in bed. So if you’re in bed for eight hours, that’s great and all…but you’re only getting seven hours of sleep.
You might be thinking, “Michele, it doesn’t take me an hour to fall asleep. I don’t wake up in the middle of the night, and then not fall back asleep for an hour. So maybe that’s true for the average person, but not for me!”
Nope, it’s still true, and I’m just as surprised as you are! Read on and I’ll explain.
The Science of ZZZs
Sleep scientists from Johns Hopkins and Stanford recently got some data from Fitbits, to determine lots of interesting facts about how people sleep.
Now that Fitbits and other fitness trackers are tracking your sleep (which, sure, a little creepy considering that Big Brother now knows when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake. I thought only Santa was supposed to know that!), sleep experts have some interesting results about how the average person sleeps.
The hope, obviously, is that they can take those results, and use them to make helpful sleep hygiene recommendations.
For example, REM sleep is really important for preserving your memory, and studies show that people who:
- cut out caffeine and alcohol
- kept their house at a reasonable temperature (since this stage of sleep is so light, it can easily be interrupted by cold/heat)
- had a comfy mattress
get better quality REM sleep!
These sleep experts use their findings to help you improve your sleep — and your quality of life — just by making a few simple suggestions.
Unfortunately, in this case, it’s not quite as simple.
So, in the study I’m talking about, scientists got sleep data from millions of Fitbit users.
- The average woman is almost getting enough sleep, with 6 hours and 50 minutes. The average man only gets 6 hours and 26 minutes. (Do women need more sleep than men? Dr. Jim Horne says yes, and that it’s because women multi-task, so they’re using more of their brain during the day. Hey, a man said it, not me…but I’ll never pass up a chance to promote Girl Bosses!!)
- Gen Z goes to bed an hour later than the average baby boomer. (Not surprising, knowing my kids.)
- We spend 50% of asleep time in “light sleep” — which is totally OK, because light sleep is actually super important. It’s when your metabolism regulates.
Fair enough…but this last fact is surprising:
- The average person is NOT getting enough sleep. They are in bed for 7 hours and 33 minutes…but, as we noted above, they’re only getting about 6 hours and 38 minutes of sleep.
And it’s not because they’re having trouble falling asleep.
It’s because you wake up 10 – 30 times every night, whether you realize it or not.
My Sleepy Samson…
Yes, you might think you only woke up that one time to pee (or three times…Getting older is rough.), but you actually wake up several times a night for short periods, that you won’t remember the next morning.
Is That Bad? Is There Anything I Can Do?
According to the sleep scientists, this whole “waking up 20 times every night” thing is completely unavoidable, and normal, no matter how shocking it seems!
But if you’re feeling tired, even if you THOUGHT you were getting enough sleep, then use the ol’ tactics of making sure your room is pitch-dark; keeping a consistent sleep schedule; cut the caffeine/alcohol; and no screens just before bed. (You hear that, Gen Z??)
If none of these techniques help you feel more rested, you should see a doctor, because you may have sleep apnea, or another sleep-impairing condition.
But the point still remains…No matter how good your sleep hygiene is, you are going to sleep about 30 – 60 minutes LESS a night, than the amount of time you are laying in bed.
So if you really want to get the recommended amount of 7 – 8 hours of sleep per night, just keep that in mind. If anyone asks why you’re going to bed early…just show them this article. 😉