Can your body properly function with less than five hours of sleep?

By Jasmine Hardwick

Art by Jelena Xu

Many people have struggles surrounding sleep; whether its getting enough of it or going to bed at a ‘reasonable’ hour. Low quality sleep is a particularly common issue amongst university students, and achieving less than five hours sleep on a regular as a student is not unheard of. 

With early nights often being traded in to study, party, binge TV shows or use social media, it can be hard to find a consistent sleep schedule that gets you a sufficient length of sleep.

So, can your body properly function with less than five hours sleep? It is well known that adults need around 7-8 hours, but, can you properly function with far less than the recommended amount? What are the ramifications when you don’t get enough? According to a 2004 study and 2018 study, five hours of sleep is certainly not enough, and not enough sleep in both the short and long term can lead to;  

  • increased stress
  • shortened temper
  • decreased alertness
  • cognitive damage
  • an affected metabolism
  • impaired physical reflexes and motor skills
  • mood destabilisation (can trigger a gradual decline in serotonin levels)
  • memory loss
  • increased risk of obesity, heart disease and depression.
  • Motor vehicle accident

When on less than five hours of sleep, you may experience all of the above symptoms as well as a direct increased risk of diabetes and the short term deterioration of memory, reasoning and verbal ability. As a result you risk your interactions with other people being impacted. So no, your body cannot properly function on less than five hours of sleep as a lack of it can deeply affect our mind, mood and physical abilities.

Then how should we go about getting to sleep earlier and faster?

  • A dark room leading up to and when sleeping
  • Form a consistent bed time routine  
  • Make the room cooler  
  • Stop using your phone  
  • Meditation  
  • Aromatherapy 
  • Avoid eating close to bedtime  
  • Reducing caffeine consumption 
  • Exercise during the day

By avoiding using your phone and dimming the lights, melatonin, a hormone linked to sleep, can be better released.

Of course, I imagine that you’ve already heard these suggestions so here is another list, of unconventional ways to fall asleep quicker.

  • Try to stay awake
  • The military method
  • Hum a song
  • Stop looking at the time
  • Sleep with socks on
  • Breath through your left nostril
  • ... and my personal favourite; Onanism

For uni students the impact of sleep deprivation on your concentration, irritability and mental health can put a strain on your studies and relationships. Hence, getting enough sleep must be made a priority. Perhaps try something from the more unusual list above when you try to sleep next!