“Can I get by with only 3 hours of sleep a night?”

Q:  “Over the past several months, insomnia has steadily reduced the amount of time I sleep.  I feel like I’m down to about 3 hours a night.  How long can this go on?  Does the mind and body eventually learn to function with this little sleep?”

A:  Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. There are a few people, statistically very few, that can get by regularly with as little as 3 and are just fine with that. They are known as short sleepers.

But if you are like the vast majority of us, 7 to 9 is more like what you need.  We can get by temporarily with less, and perform relatively well, this has been proven many times.  But at some point we build up a sleep debt which must be repaid.  That’s why many insomniacs tend to sleep in on weekends when they can.  Which, by the way, probably doesn’t help much to resolve the underlying reasons for the sleeping problems.

The key to better sleep is to address the underlying causes for the insomnia.  It’s important to understand insomnia is not a disease by itself.  Instead, insomnia is invariably only a symptom of something going on deeper that’s causing the sleep problems.  So treating these root causes, not the insomnia, should be your focus for sleep improvement.

If you haven’t recently had a checkup with your primary care physician, that would be step one.  Try to rule out any possible medical causes for insomnia.  These could range from allergies to obstructive sleep apnea.  They are treatable.

However, most of us with sleeping problems do not have a medical issue causing it.  The majority of us have primary insomnia, which has no identifiable medical basis.  For literally millions of us, insomnia is typically caused by some combination of bad sleep habits and excessive worry about sleep.  This is known as psychophysiological insomnia.  Sleeping pills by themselves will not resolve these underlying issues.

The gold standard to treat the nonmedical roots of insomnia is cognitive behavioral therapy.  CBT has helped many people completely recover to normal sleeping. It might help you too.

You can learn CBT for sleep from a number of sources.  Professional sleep doctors, counselors and sleep therapists use it.  You can buy books, and find much free or inexpensive information online.  In particular, the Sleep Training System is one such affordable, online, downloadable solution that uses proven CBT methods to improve sleep.

For more information on using CBT for insomnia, or to ask a sleep question, please feel free to contact us.

Explore posts in the same categories: Health, Insomnia, sleep

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One Comment on ““Can I get by with only 3 hours of sleep a night?””


  1. […] in stone that says you or anyone else must get 8 solid hours every night. This number is in fact highly variable, and even among one individual changes throughout […]


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