When I was a younger person, I loved to sleep. 9,10, 11 or even more hours a night would not have been considered either excessive or unusual. On days when I did not have to get up early for school, work or other commitments, sleeping as late as possible was the norm. And today, sex or seven hours a night does the trick quite nicely. I awaken at about the same time the alarm off during the week the weekends and awaken generally feeling well and completely rested. Obviously, both my habits and the requirements of my body have changed over time. In this, I am not unique. Conventional wisdom suggests that the older we get, the less sleep (and food) we need – In talking with many other people I have discovered that neither of these presumed changes is categorically applicable to everyone. We are all individuals and our needs we have related to our health, rest and sustenance vary quite individually. As with so many things, there is really no one ‘right’ answer.
I recall listening to the then eminent (and largely unchallenged) Clinical Psychologist and famous Holocaust Survivor, Bruno Bettleheim, speak to an audience of parents. He was asked by one mother of a ten-year old, “What is the right bedtime for my child.” His sage-like reply was imply, “Madam, you must remember one thing. Bedtimes are for the parents!” One of his better answers, I thought. While seemingly ubiquitous conventional wisdom tells us that children get as much sleep (or food) as they require, therefor parents ought best let the child’s natural needs determine their sleeping and eating patterns, I believe that such an approach can be and often is harmful to both the child and family. After all, parents DO need some time to themselves and more often than not understand what a child needs to eat to be as healthy as possible better than the child does. Still, just as is the case with adults, the need for sleep is a very personal and subjective need. (Bedtime for children does not, necessarily, equal sleeping!)
It is not difficult to determine how much sleep a person needs – but you won’t find the information in a book or on a table or laminated chart posted in your doctor’s office. You find the answer by paying attention to your own body and its needs. If you are sleeping six hours a night and awaken feeling groggy, tired and unrested, you probably need more sleep. If, on the other hand, you are consistently waking up, feeling lit up and ready to roll an hour or two before your alarm goes off in the morning, you probably need less and could, If you wanted to, stay up later and still be OK. Or, if you prefer, get up earlier and find something to do early in the morning before you need to go to work or satisfy whatever other commitments you have.
Because this need is so entirely individual, the chances that the need for sleep of any two people, including married and otherwise committed couples, is not apt to be identical. This can become a sticky issue and needs to be discussed. After all, the one who needs more sleep does not want to be awakened prematurely by their partner who needs less! So with the need to get the rest you need for yourself, but with sensitivity to those who share your living space – you may decide to try some different sleeping schedules out. Your sleep needs may not be what you have presumed them to be and often change at various times in life.
What is right for one person is not necessarily what is right for you. Listen to your body, feel it’s needs and don’t be afraid to make adjustments that might leave you more refreshed and feeling, generally, a lot better.