The eight-hour sleep myth

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  • Stop moaning! Apparently we're all getting enough sleep after all

    Despite the dark circles and Monday morning yawns, apparently the average Brit gets plenty of sleep and the need for a full eight hours is just a myth.

    Sleep expert Professor Jim Horne says the idea of Britain being a sleep-deprived nation has ‘been overblown’. In fact, our health will only start suffering if we get less than five hours of sleep a night on a regular basis.

    ‘The fact is most adults get enough sleep, and our collective sleep debt, if it exists at all, has not worsened in recent times,’ Horne told New Scientist magazine.

    ‘My assertion is that the vast majority of people sleep perfectly adequately. That’s not to say that sleep deprivation doesn’t exist. But in general we’ve never had it so good.’

    A study at Loughborough University’s Sleep Research Centre, which is run by Horne, also discovered that the average British adult gets between seven and seven-and-a-half-hours per night, and even when offered extra time in bed, would prefer to spend that time being active.

    ‘It seems wanting more sleep is not necessarily synonymous with needing more sleep, and that given a choice, people will happily forego extra sleep in favour of other leisure activities,’ he adds.

    ‘Instead of worrying we’re not getting enough sleep, we should acknowledge we’re probably sleeping better than ever before, and rather than trying to increase our sleep, maybe spend those ‘extra’ hours of wakefulness doing something more productive.’

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