Maria Connolly, LPC Facebook Facebook Facebook

Is Cutting Down to 4 Hours of Sleep Nightly the Best Way to Get Ahead?

Find answers to these questions — Is 4 hours of sleep enough for you, can you train yourself to function on less sleep and are there long-term dangers?“A well-spent day brings happy sleep.” ~  Leonardo da Vinci

Martha Stewart does it. Indra Nooyi – Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo does it. Many other successful people do it… They all function on 4 hours of sleep or sometimes up to 6. And if you browse the self-help aisle, you’ll see books that talk about getting your full sleep in 4 hours, how to sleep 8 hours in 4 hours, and so on. 

So much has been written about successful people functioning on only 4 hours of sleep.  And they make it sound like that’s the only way to get ahead in business today. They intimate that if you’re not up and productive by 5 a.m. you might as well accept that you’ll never be a success. Here’s why I don’t believe that that’s true…

Of all earth’s population, there are just a few people who are genetically “natural” short sleepers. Neuroscientist Dr. Ying-Hui Fu, who has been studying genetics and sleep for over 20 years, discovered natural short sleepers seem to share a mutation of the gene DEC2. Some major takeaways we can learn from her are…

“We each have our unique genetic makeup and we each have to find our personal sleep schedule by listening to your body.”

She recommended the average person needs 8 to 8½ hours of sleep. Of course, some people need more, some people need less. You have to listen to your body to know if you’re getting enough good sleep. She said, “If you sleep restrict yourself for just a couple of hours a day, and you do that for a week, your mental alertness is equivalent to as if you stayed up for two days straight. You may not be consciously aware of it, but your body and brain cannot lie.

If you think you can save time by sleeping less, so you can do other things, you’ll actually have less desire and less motivation to do and enjoy them.”

So what about when people say you can train yourself to function on less sleep? What’s most likely happening is that you become used to the gradual, negative effects of reduced sleep, which will ultimately lead to a health crisis in your future.

The only way you can healthfully get away with some sleep deprivation, for a short period of time, without long-term health consequences, is if you’re in tip-top shape. Your body functions on the choices you make. Give it good support — restorative sleep, good nutrition, plenty of exercise — and it will support you as you pursue your dreams. Shortchange it, and you’re going to run out of steam.

As Dr. Ying-Hui Fu pointed out, you have unique-to-you genetic limitations. That’s why you can’t compare yourself to other people who function well on 4 hours of sleep or maybe even 6. 

Is 4 hour of sleep right for YOU?

If you’re already dragging because you’re lacking proper nutrition and hydration, you won’t be able to figure out how much sleep you really need. Work on getting yourself to a level of optimal health first. And keep a journal to track how each change makes you feel…more energized? More drained? (Download my free 7-Point Body Wellness Assessment to help you get reconnected with your body.) 

We’re not born with a manual telling us what we need to function and be successful — “Maria needs 8.2 hours of sleep, 3 grams of protein, 51 ounces of water and 25 push-ups each day to be healthy” — no, it doesn’t happen like that! We have to become really skillful at listening to our bodies

Your age affects how much sleep you need. The amount of sleep you need varies throughout your life. And if you compare sleep charts, they also vary from site to site. But the following chart puts you in the range for each age.

  • newborns need 14–17 hours
  • infants need 12–15 hours
  • toddlers need 11–14 hours
  • preschoolers need 10–13 hours
  • school-aged children need 9–11 hours
  • teenagers need 8–10 hours
  • adults need 7–9 hours
  • older adults need 7–8 hours

A practice of mindfulness is vital, when assessing your sleep needs. It helps you observe, without judgment. Judgments get us into trouble, because they feed our negative self-talk! 

Make small adjustments and see how they feel. 

  • Start with your age-recommended number of sleep hours.
  • Stick to that number for a week or two and be sure to practice good sleeping habits.
  • Track how you feel when you wake up and throughout the day.
  • Adjust your sleep routine until you find the right sleep interval for you. 
  • Try varying your bedtime and wake time, in 15-minute increments, until you find the combination that works for you.. 

Also examine, with curiosity, how your work and personal relationships make you feel. How about hobbies and other activities? They could be stealing sleep from you. As Charlotte Bronte said, “A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow.”

If you’re always tired, you might need:

  • A regular sleep schedule or a better quality of sleep.
  • Water, because you’re dehydrated.
  • Better nutrition because you’re lacking in certain vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc.
  • Shoes, chairs, bed, etc, that properly support your musculoskeletal system.
  • Less sleep. Yes, sleeping too much can make you tired!
  • More movement. It lessens pain and tires you out so you want to sleep. 
  • Drama reduction…emotions play a powerful role in how energized you feel.
  • Medical help to see if there’s an underlying condition that can be treated.

How do you know when you’ve had enough sleep? When you feel well rested!

Genetically you may be either a night owl or a morning lark. Play to your advantage, while still getting the number of hours of sleep you need. You can find more sleep tips in my blog. I also invite you to learn how Somatic Coaching can help you tune into what your body is telling you and how you can give it exactly what it needs when it needs it.

Thank you for the photo Cris Saur

Healthy Sleep

Let's get started with 30 free minutes

I invite you to learn more about me and my coaching and counseling services. Please contact me to schedule an “It starts with you!” 30-minute complimentary consultation with me, in-person, by phone or via video consultation, so we can explore our partnership.


How to Step Forward to a Future You've Created

Discover how to replace your old, self-limiting map with a new map full of possibilities for the future


© Neways Integrated Wellness Center. All rights reserved. Site developed and hosted by Rogue Web Works.
Professional Certified Coach by International Coach Federation