How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?

Turns out, it’s not as much—or as little—as you think. But getting the right amount is the key to a long and healthy life.

Celebrity hair stylist Kristan Serafino’s jam-packed schedule forced her to put a good night’s sleep on the backburner. Serafino—who has styled Matthew McConaughey, Meg Ryan—would nab only four hours of shut-eye each night, and lean on props at photo shoots to keep herself from collapsing. “Chugging coffee was a big help,” she recalls.

Her wake-up call came when she conked out at the airport gate while waiting for—and nearly missing—her flight to a photo shoot. After that, Serafino decided to make sleep a priority, and now hits the sheets earlier to log six to eight hours of z’s each night. “Now that I have better control of my sleep patterns, I wake up in the mornings with more energy, and I am down to one cup of coffee a day,” she says.  

What Serafino doesn’t realize is that by increasing her nightly slumber from a paltry four hours of sleep to at least six, she may have also prolonged her life. That’s because not getting enough shut-eye can actually shorten your life span. Yep, you heard that right.

The health consequences of too little sleep
Even though sleep researchers are still trying to unravel why, exactly, we sleep—it seems to have restorative, healing powers and helps us sort and file away our daily memories—there’s no doubt that we can’t live without it.

“You can live longer without food and water than you can without sleep,” says Lisa Shives, M.D., medical director of Northshore Sleep Medicine in Evanston, Illinois.

STUDY: Sleep Boosts Beauty

Consistently not getting enough sleep doesn’t just leave you a dazed, moody and forgetful former version of yourself, chronic sleep deprivation can also put you a risk for a whole host of health problems ranging from diabetes to hypertension and obesity—all of which can affect longevity, according to Sonia Ancoli-Israel, Ph.D., director of the Gillin Sleep and Chronomedicine Research Center and professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego.

Too much sleep hurts health, too
Unlike Serafino who trudged through the day on little sleep, beauty editor Courtney Dunlop was convinced she couldn’t function without nine hours of slumber each night. “I used to say that I prefer 10 hours of sleep, but that I try for at least nine,” recalls Dunlop. “The thing is, I was always tired. All day long—tired.”

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