Today's Paper Obits Crime Razorback Sports OPINION: Self-alienation Style Today's Photos Puzzles Northwest Profiles

Q: Can you train yourself to need less sleep?

A: Many people think they can teach themselves to need less sleep, but they're wrong, said Dr. Sigrid Veasey, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine.

We might feel that we're getting by fine on less sleep, but "the more you deprive yourself of sleep over long periods, the less accurate you are of judging your own sleep perception," she said.

Studies have shown that people don't functionally adapt to less sleep than their bodies need. Their performance on all kinds of tasks suffers.

There is a range of normal sleep times, with most healthy adults needing seven to nine hours of sleep per night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Those older than 65 need seven to eight hours, on average, while teenagers need eight to 10 hours, and school-age children nine to 11 hours.

Extended vacations are the best times to assess how much sleep you truly need. Once you catch up on lost sleep and are not sleep deprived, the amount you end up sleeping is a good measure of how much you need.

You can ask yourself the questions, "Do you feel that your brain is much sharper, your temper is better, you're paying attention more effectively? If those answers are yes, then definitely get the sleep," said Veasey, who has discovered -- to her chagrin -- that she needs nine hours of sleep a night to function effectively.

Health concerns like pain, sleep apnea or autoimmune disease can increase the need for sleep, said Andrea Meredith, a neuroscientist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

A misalignment of the internal clock that governs the sleep-wake cycle can also drive up the need for sleep, Meredith said. The brain's clock can become misaligned by being stimulated at the wrong time of day, she said, such as digital screen use too close to bedtime or exercise at a time of day when the body wants to be winding down.

Drinking caffeine one isn't habituated to in the hours before bedtime can also prevent sleep.

ActiveStyle on 07/04/2016

Print Headline: No, it's not possible to alter sleep needs

Sponsor Content