Most of our grandmothers taught us that eight hours was a good night’s sleep. And in my grandmother’s time, where the average night of sleep was nine hours, getting eight hours was not nearly as difficult as it is today. People in her generation more often did physical labor, and although they rose at the crack of dawn, they frequently went to bed at 7 or 8 pm, a time when many people today are just getting home from work. It was commonly held in her time that hours of sleep before midnight were more valuable than hours of sleep after midnight. Thus the saying EARLY TO BED, EARLY TO RISE MAKES A MAN HEALTHY, WEALTHY AND WISE, which came from Ben Franklin in the eighteenth century.

Voluntarily cutting back on sleep today is a common response to the pressures of too many responsibilities and too little time. It is no wonder that the average night’s sleep has decreased from nine hours in our grandmother’s day to seven and a half hours today, and is undoubtedly still declining.

Perhaps sleep is just a luxury we can do without, we often think. Not so. The National Institutes of Health, our largest and most sophisticated government research body on all aspects of health, is clear that the whole eight hours is still needed, and that doing without the whole eight hours on more than an occasional basis, can lead to some significant health problems.

There are circumstances in which we come to accept sleep deprivation as completely normal. Ask any parent of an infant about sleep deprivation. It often becomes standard operating procedure as infants develop the maturity of their nervous systems to be able to sleep through the night that their parents rarely sleep through the night. This “acceptable” parental sleep deprivation may persist until the child is two years old or even longer. And that’s about the time, on average, when families choose to have another child, prolonging their sleep deficit for an additional two or more years. Most of these parents, male or female, are also expected to perform at work the next day after a night of sleeping poorly or sometimes not at all.

The longer a pattern develops and becomes entrenched, the more time it takes to overcome it. Sleep is no exception. Although the body becomes acclimated to a certain number of hours, do not allow yourself to think that less than eight hours of sleep a night is somehow acceptable and has no consequences for your health. Fight for that eight or even more hours of sleep in your schedule as if your life depended on it. It probably does.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Marcia Lindsey is a sleep coach/psychologist who trains individuals and groups to change the mental and physical roadblocks getting in the way of good sleep. To get your 10 sleep tips go to