You’d sleep in every day if you could, but how much sleep do you really need to function at your best?

Our bodies have different needs, but most research suggests that seven to eight hours of shut-eye a night will leave you feeling refreshed.

Professor Leon Lack, Flinders University academic and author of Sleep Well, Live Better, suggests slowly varying the time you spend asleep to calculate your optimum amount. Sleep for six hours for three nights, then six-and-a-half hours for three nights, then seven hours, seven-and-a-half hours and so on.

“The amount of sleep at which you feel pretty good across the day, with no undue sleepiness or fatigue and no awakenings during the night, indicates your sleep need,” says Professor Lack.

Get your beauty sleep

It’s true – the more you sleep, the better you look. Research has found that people who regularly get a good night’s sleep look more attractive than those who stay up late watching infomercials.

Scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden photographed people after a normal night’s sleep and after sleep deprivation. Untrained observers rated the people in the sleep-deprived shots as less attractive than after a good night’s sleep.

Interesting facts

• If it takes less than five minutes to fall asleep at night, you’re sleep deprived. The ideal is between 10 and 15 minutes, meaning you’re still tired enough to sleep deeply, but not so exhausted you feel sleepy during the day.

• Staying awake for seventeen hours – getting up at 7am and hitting the sack at midnight – leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 0.05. Gives new meaning to drinking and driving.

• The ‘natural alarm clock’ that enables some people to wake up more or less when they want to is caused by a burst of the stress hormone adrenocorticotropin. Researchers say this reflects an unconscious anticipation of the stress of waking up.

• Some studies suggest women need up to an hour of extra sleep a night compared to men, and not getting it may be one reason women are much more susceptible to depression than men.

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