You may not need as much sleep as you think according to Fitbit research, but you might need better quality sleep.
Essential reading: Sleep monitors – 10 gadgets for advanced sleep monitoring
We all know sleep is important. Getting enough quality kip time at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.
But how much sleep do you really need? And can you get away with sleeping less than the recommended amount? Fitbit researchers think so.
They tapped into millions of nights of sleep data from their user database and compared them with users’ scores on Think Fast, a cognitive test Fitbit includes on its app. The results were interesting to say the least and go against conventional guidelines.
The data shows that people who slept between 5 hours and 50 minutes and 6 hours and 30 minutes actually performed better on the test than those who slept more or less. This range is shorter than what scientists and researchers typically advise.
The National Sleep Foundation, for example, recommends that adults older than 18 years aim for 7 to 9 hours of kip time. For those older than 65, the recommended range is between 7 and 8 hours. Fitbit research scientist Jonathan Charlesworth said these guidelines are based on how much time people spend in bed rather than how much they actually sleep.
“There are a couple things to take home here: The amount of sleep you’re getting is significantly lower than the time you spend in bed,” he said.
“and the optimal time is probably largely lower than what you think”.
And quality is just as important, particularly as we age. Fitbit researchers found that for those over 40, reducing the time spent awake at night increases cognitive performance by 10%.
Its worth adding, these are just averages. For example, Fitbit researchers found that women need about 30 minutes more sleep than men. The guidelines differ by age, too. You’re best off seeing how you respond to different amounts of sleep based on your individual circumstances, needs and habits.
Better sleep starts by knowing what’s happening at night. This is precisely why sleep tracking has become big business. The market is now chock-full of health and fitness wearables offering advanced sleep tracking. They range from those that sit on your wrist and tap into accelerometer and heart rate data, to those that use an echo location system to track sleep without touching you or the bed.
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