Is 5 hours light sleep enough?

Many people wonder if getting just 5 hours of light sleep per night is enough to function properly, feel refreshed and maintain good health. There is no simple “yes” or “no” answer to this question, as sleep needs can vary quite a bit between individuals. However, research suggests that regularly getting only 5 hours or less of sleep per night is not ideal for most adults.

Quick Answers

Here are quick answers to some common questions about 5 hours of sleep:

  • Is 5 hours of sleep enough? For most people, no. Adults generally need 7-9 hours of sleep per night for optimal health and daily performance.
  • Can you function on 5 hours of sleep? In the short-term, yes, but over time it can lead to impaired cognition, mood issues, and increased risk of accidents and disease.
  • What are the risks of only sleeping 5 hours? Increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, anxiety, depression and cognitive decline.
  • Is it OK to sleep 5 hours every night? No, chronic sleep restriction is associated with negative health effects. Aim for 7-9 hours each night.
  • How much sleep do experts recommend? The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours for adults aged 18-64 and 7-8 hours for older adults aged 65+.

Sleep Quality vs. Quantity

It’s important to note that sleep quality and sleep quantity are both important for health. You can sleep for 7-9 hours, but if your sleep is fragmented and light, you may still feel unrested. Likewise, you may feel refreshed from just 5-6 hours of very deep, uninterrupted sleep. However, research shows that restricted sleep (less than 7 hours) leads to impairment over time, even if you feel rested after an individual night of short sleep.

Impact of Restricted Sleep

Getting only 5 hours of light, fragmented sleep on a regular basis can have many detrimental effects on the body and brain. Some key outcomes associated with chronic short sleep duration include:

  • Increased obesity risk: Sleeping less than 7 hours per night is linked to increased hunger and appetite, higher body mass index (BMI), and greater risk of obesity.
  • Impaired glucose metabolism and increased diabetes risk: Insufficient sleep can cause insulin resistance and high blood sugar, raising diabetes risk.
  • Higher cardiovascular disease risk: Short sleep is associated with high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
  • Accelerated cognitive decline: Chronic sleep loss is linked to poor concentration, memory issues and dementia.
  • Mental health problems: Sleep restriction raises the risk of clinical depression and anxiety disorders.
  • Weakened immune system: Lack of sleep compromises the immune system, making you more susceptible to infections and illness.
  • Increased mortality risk: Studies show that sleeping 5 hours or less per night is associated with significantly higher mortality.

Sleep Duration Recommendations

Based on the available evidence, experts including the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend that adults get at least 7 hours of sleep per night for optimal health. They further advise that 7-9 hours of sleep is ideal for most adults. Their recommendations are summarized below:

Age Group Recommended Hours of Sleep Per Night
18-60 year old adults 7 or more hours
61-64 year old adults 7-9 hours
65+ year old adults 7-8 hours

As you can see, at no age group is only 5 hours of sleep recommended. For healthy adults, aim for at least 7 hours nightly.

Individual Sleep Needs Vary

While most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep, individual sleep needs can vary quite a bit. Some people do just fine on 6 hours, while others need 9-10 hours to feel well-rested. Genetics, health conditions, medications, stress levels and lifestyle habits can all impact your individual sleep needs. So while 5 hours would be inadequate for most people, it may work for some.

Signs You Need More Sleep

How can you tell if your 5 hours of sleep is sufficient or not? Here are some signs that indicate you need more shut-eye:

  • Fatigue and low energy during the day
  • Problems concentrating, focusing and remembering
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Dependence on caffeinated drinks to get through the day
  • Falling asleep during sedentary activities like reading or watching TV
  • Nodding off while driving
  • Irritability, anxiety, depression or other mood changes
  • Clumsiness or impaired coordination
  • Frequent illnesses and infections
  • Sugar and junk food cravings

Pay attention to these red flags from your body. If getting 5 hours leaves you feeling this way, try going to bed earlier to get at least 7 hours of restorative sleep.

Tips for Improving Sleep Quantity

If you want to sleep more than 5 hours per night, here are some helpful tips:

  • Have a consistent bedtime and wake time, even on weekends
  • Develop a relaxing pre-bed routine like reading or meditating
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and heavy meals close to bedtime
  • Make your bedroom cool, dark and quiet
  • Limit screen time and digital device use before bed
  • Get natural daylight exposure as soon as you wake up
  • Exercise regularly, but not too close to bedtime
  • Evaluate and manage sources of stress and anxiety
  • Set an alarm reminding you when it’s time to go to bed

Making sleep more of a priority by following proper sleep hygiene can help increase your total sleep time per night. If you continue having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor.

The Costs of Insufficient Sleep

Beyond just feeling tired and groggy, chronically getting insufficient sleep comes at a high cost with major risks to your health, wellbeing, safety and productivity. Some sobering statistics on the impacts of restricted sleep include:

  • Adults sleeping less than 7 hours per night have a 12% greater risk of death from any cause
  • Short sleep is associated with a 45% increased risk of developing or dying from coronary heart disease
  • Sleeping less than 7 hours nightly increases diabetes risk by 30%
  • Getting less than 6 hours of sleep each night triples your risk of high blood pressure
  • Chronic sleep deprivation contributes to about 13% of workplace errors and accidents
  • Drowsy driving causes over 100,000 motor vehicle crashes each year in the U.S.
  • Just one week of getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night can impair immune system function and lower your resistance to the common cold virus

As you can see, skimping on sleep poses a serious risk to health, safety and well-being for individuals as well as whole communities and workforces. Protect yourself by making sleep a priority and aiming for at least 7 hours nightly.

The Benefits of Adequate Sleep

Getting at least 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night provides many health and performance benefits including:

  • Improved learning, memory and decision-making
  • Better emotional regulation and mood stability
  • Lower inflammation levels promoting overall health
  • Reduced pain sensitivity and fibromyalgia symptoms
  • Enhanced creativity and problem-solving abilities
  • Improved athletic speed, performance and coordination
  • Lower risk of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes
  • Stronger immune function to fight infections
  • Increased longevity and reduced mortality
  • Higher productivity, lower errors and better safety at work

Sleep is essential for all systems of the body and brain to function optimally. Getting adequate high-quality sleep makes you healthier, happier, safer and more productive.


In summary, while an occasional night of 5 hours of sleep won’t cause harm, regularly getting just 5 hours or less can negatively impact your health, mood, safety, performance and longevity. For most adults, 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night is recommended. If you rely on getting just 5 hours of light, fragmented sleep, improving your sleep duration and quality should be a top priority. Consistently getting at least 7 hours of deeper, uninterrupted sleep will provide wide-ranging benefits to your mental and physical health.

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