I think that most of us can agree that sleep – a really good night’s sleep that is – can be a restorative, important, and wonderful thing. Health researchers and scientists have been working for years to try to answer the pointed question, How much sleep do people really need? While the answer to this question varies depending on the person being asked, one thing is very clear: consistent sleep is vital for good health.

According to “Sleep: a good investment in health and safety,” a resource from the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “Sleep management is critical to both good health and good safety,” and that many people unknowingly place themselves at risk for serious medical problems because of sleep deprivation. AsapScience, a popular YouTube channel that discusses everyday applications of science recently tackled the topic of sleep, and came up with a conclusion that also makes mention of the health risks that can arise from lack of sleep. “While the very function of sleep is still debated by scientists, we do know that it’s necessary to function efficiently and productively,” explains the narrator of AsapScience’s newest video.

In the video, the narrator discusses a recent study in which scientists conducted cognitive tests to subjects that had received 4, 6, and 8 hours of sleep. After 14 days, the subjects who received 8 hours of sleep exhibited few attention lapses, and strong cognitive function. However, the group of people who had only 6 hours of sleep revealed more surprising results. According to AsapScience, these test subjects exhibited similar cognitive reaction times to someone with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.1%. Basically, after two weeks of receiving only 6 hours of sleep each night, these test subjects exhibited the same cognitive reaction times as a person who is considered legally drunk.

Even more alarming, the test subjects who only received 4 hours of sleep per night exhibited decreased brain function each day, and often fell asleep during the cognitive tests. The study revealed that long term sleep deprivation is much harder to recover from, and can cause health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and irreversible impaired brain function.

Most studies show that humans need 7 to 8 hours of sleep to function properly, and that getting too much sleep can ultimately yield negative results as well. Of course, there are some variations that exist on an individual level, and above all, it is important to listen to your body and its needs.

I feel pretty confident in saying that I need about 7 or 8 hours to fully function, though it’s not always easy to get that much. How much sleep do you need?

Featured Image: Antje Schultner via Flickr CC