Sleep apnea makes it worse, or course, because one of the symptoms of sleep apnea is pauses in breathing during sleep. This can cause the sufferer to frequently wake up during the night (even if they don’t realize it’s happening), and result in extreme daytime fatigue.
So what explains those people who have sleep apnea but aren’t completely exhausted during the day?
It turns out that every adult doesn’t necessarily need a full 8 hours of sleep every night to feel refreshed in the morning. Here’s a quote from David Volpi, founder of Eos Sleep:
“If you get six hours a night and feel well-rested when you wake up and don’t get tired throughout the day, that kind of tells you,” he says. “Your body will tell you if you don’t get enough sleep.”
And Dr. Christopher Winter, Director of the Martha Jefferson Hospital Sleep Medicine Center goes further, by chastising public figures who proclaim that “8” is the magic number of hours EVERY adult needs to sleep.
It turns out that there may be a genetic difference in people who require very little sleep at night, with “the scientific evidence suggesting that different people are genetically wired to require shorter-than-average periods of sleep goes back many years“.
Dr. Winter says the amount of sleep a particular adult needs is “it depends” (sorry, no quick answer here!). Fortunately, he also provides some tips on figuring out how much sleep you need:
- How long does it take you to fall asleep? We usually consider a normal “sleep latency” (the time it takes to fall asleep) to be about 15-20 minutes. If you are asleep before your head hits the pillow, you might not be sleeping enough. If it takes you an hour or more to fall asleep, you might be trying to sleep too much.
- Do you awaken during the night? There are many serious sleep conditions that can disrupt sleep, but trying to sleep too much can be equally problematic to sleep continuity. Imaging coming home from work at 5:00 p.m. and immediately attempting to sleep until 7:00 a.m. Most of us cannot sleep for 14 hours straight, so that night would be punctuated by numerous awakenings. Think of it as your brain saying, “Sorry, but I can’t stay asleep that long.”
- Do you frequently wake up before your alarm? Even if you go back to sleep, it might be your brain’s way of telling you that it’s gotten what it needs in terms of sleep. Try starting your day when you first wake up instead of continuing to snooze. Patients are often very surprised to find that over time, they actually feel better.
- Finally, and most importantly, how do you feel during the day? Are you sleepy? Try to ignore feelings of fatigue or low body energy and instead focus on how likely are you to fall asleep sitting and reading or working after lunch. If you feel driven to sleep, you might need more sleep. If not, your sleep might be perfect, even if you are only sleeping seven hours.