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A New Netflix Series is Challenging The Idea of How Much Sleep We Need

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Headspace Guide to Sleep is one of the newest Netflix original series out right now. While the show covers a range of topics related to rest, one of the most interesting claims the show makes is that 8 hours of sleep is no longer the goal, but rather an average amount of rest people get. They say that, instead, adults should aim to get between 7 and 9 hours of shuteye every night.

Since many of us have long assumed 8 hours is the optimal sleep duration, this news might come as a surprise. Are their claims valid, though?

In this article, we’ll share details about the series and whether other sleep health experts agree with this data. Plus, we’ll cover how too much sleep or not enough could affect you and how to get the ideal amount of sleep every night.

What Is Headspace?

Headspace is a meditation and sleep app that has partnered with Netflix to create the series Headspace Guide to Sleep. There are 7 episodes total, and each one is roughly 20 minutes long. 

The series is animated and narrated by Evelyn Lewis Prieto, the Director of Meditation at Headspace. With her soothing voice complemented by a British accent, Ms. Prieto walks viewers through different sleep-related topics. Sleep duration is one of the first subjects covered in Episode 1.

How Much Sleep Do Adults Need?

Dr. Jason Ong, Ph.D. is the Director of Behavioral Sleep Medicine for Nox Health and was a contributor for Headspace Guide to Sleep. He confirms that most experts would agree that the ideal range for healthy adults is between 7 and 9 hours of rest every night.

Dr. Chelsie Rohrscheib, the lead neuroscientist and sleep specialist at Tatch, also agrees with this data. “Science has repeatedly found that adults require 7-9 hours of sleep per night, with 8 hours being the average amount of sleep required to maintain health from the late teens onwards. The exact amount of sleep an individual needs is dictated by your genetic makeup.”

With this in mind, that means that getting less than 7 hours of slumber is not enough rest while sleeping more than 9 hours is too much. Experts also stress that the quality of sleep[1] you get is equally as important as the amount of time you spend sleeping.

Too Much Sleep vs. Not Enough,
Which Is Worse?

Those with busy schedules might think that extra rest doesn’t sound half bad, and when compared to a sleep deficit, it would be the better option. However, health specialists warn that too much shuteye can be just as problematic for your health as sleep deprivation.

Sleep Deprivation

A 2013 Gallup poll[2] found that as many as 40 percent of Americans slept an average of 6.8 hours a night, which means that nearly half the U.S. population was short on rest. Little sleep may seem like a fact of life for some Americans, but considering the potential health consequences, it’s not something to be taken lightly.

Side Effects

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the following complications[3] are associated with sleep deprivation.

Excessive Daytime Sleepiness

This is considered the main effect of not getting enough sleep. Furthermore, the AASM adds that someone who is sleep-deprived has a higher chance of falling asleep during quiet or tedious moments throughout the day.

Cardiovascular Problems

A lack of rest increases your likelihood of developing high blood pressure or experiencing a heart attack.


Research has found that those who don’t get adequate sleep are hungrier[4] and consume more food with higher calories, increasing their risk of obesity.


Sleep deprivation has also been linked to an increased risk of diabetes. A 2016 study on prolonged sleep deprivation found that a chronic lack of rest was associated with a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes[5] specifically.

Impaired Cognitive Abilities

Too little shuteye can lead to poor cognitive performance, including bad decision making, difficulty concentrating, longer reaction times, more mistakes, and memory problems.

Mood Changes

A chronically sleep-deprived person is more likely to exhibit signs of anxiety and depression, along with negative emotions such as irritability and a lack of motivation.


Sleep deprivation can be the result of both physical and environmental factors.

Sleep Disorders

There are a variety of sleep disorders that can impact your rest. According to the AASM, these may include delayed sleep phase disorder, environmental sleep disorder, psychophysiological insomnia, periodic limb movements, and restless legs syndrome.

Behaviorally Induced Insufficient Sleep Syndrome

The AASM describes this syndrome as a condition in which someone engages in “voluntary, but unintentional, chronic sleep deprivation.” Typically, a person diagnosed with this syndrome hasn’t slept enough on a daily basis for a minimum of three months. Researchers have found that college students[6], in particular, are at an increased risk for this syndrome.

Personal Responsibilities

Life’s responsibilities can certainly come between you and quality rest. A baby is a bundle of joy for new parents, but one that may often wake up frequently during the night, leaving you to feel sleep-deprived more often than not. Caretakers for loved ones who are older or severely ill may also have to wake up during the night to help.


Overnight shifts or irregular working hours may also prevent you from sleeping enough. UCLA Health reports that overnight workers[7] tend to be chronically deprived of rest and have trouble falling asleep during the day. They add that these workers are also less likely to feel refreshed when they wake up.
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In addition to not getting enough rest, experts say oversleeping could be harmful to your health and possibly be a warning sign of an underlying condition.

Side Effects

Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that the following complications[8] are linked to regularly oversleeping.

Type 2 Diabetes

Just as sleep loss could increase your risk of type 2 diabetes, so can too much slumber. Diabetes is a chronic condition that impairs the body’s ability to manage its blood glucose (sugar) levels.

In a 2019 study[9], researchers examined a group of prediabetic and untreated type 2 diabetes participants. They found that the participants who slept either too little or too long had unfavorable glucose measures in their blood.

Heart Disease

Too much sleep is also associated with a higher chance of developing heart disease.


2008 research examining the connection between sleep duration and weight gain found that long sleepers[10] had higher increases in body weight, waist circumference, and body fat compared to those who slept for an average amount of time.


Depression can be symptomatic of oversleeping, or for those already struggling with depression, too much rest could worsen your symptoms. One possible reason for this is that when you oversleep, you may feel like you’re not as productive or missing out[11] on the day.


You may also experience an increase in headaches as a result of getting excess rest.


While oversleeping doesn’t directly lead to death, experts with Johns Hopkins Medicine say that it can lead to a greater risk of dying from another medical condition.


While some disorders disrupt your sleep, causing you to rest more, others can directly increase the amount of sleep you need.

Sleep Apnea

This disorder causes a person to repeatedly start and stop breathing during the night.

Restless Legs Syndrome

With RLS, a person feels an uncontrollable urge to keep moving their legs, and this disorder typically becomes more acute at night.


This term refers to when you grind or clench your teeth while asleep. Those with Bruxism may have to seek out different treatments, including a mouth guard, as this condition could adversely affect your teeth as well.

Chronic Pain

Long-term discomfort from conditions such as Fibromyalgia or a serious injury could certainly prevent you from sleeping well.

Certain Medications

Drowsiness is one of the most common side effects of medications, which is why it is best to consult with your physician to address any concerns.


Narcolepsy is a brain disorder that affects your body’s sleep-wake cycle.

Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome

This syndrome causes you to stay up late, making it difficult to wake up the following morning. DSPS tends to develop or worsen during adolescence[12].

Idiopathic Hypersomnia

People with IH experience extreme tiredness. However, the cause of this disorder is not known.

When Is It Okay to Oversleep?

While regularly sleeping more than 9 hours can be a cause for concern, there are times when it is considered normal. Dr. Max Cynader, a neuroscientist and the CEO of Synaptitude Brain Health, says that it is common for people to sleep more while sick, under extreme exhaustion, or recovering from surgery or childbirth. However, if you continue to sleep more than usual once you recover, you should consult with your doctor.

How to Get the Right Amount of Sleep

For those adults who struggle to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night, the positive news is that there are steps[13] you can take that should help you sleep better.

Establish a Sleep Schedule

This is one of the primary ways to get on track with sleep duration. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day – including weekends – helps set your internal clock, which should give you more control over how long you sleep.

Don’t Take Naps

An afternoon snooze might sound nice, but it can also affect your sleep schedule by making it more difficult to fall asleep at night.

Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine

Caffeine in the morning may help you wake up, but you should avoid drinking any in the afternoon and find other ways to recharge if need be. This is because the caffeine you consume in the afternoon can stay in your system for at least six hours[14].

Having alcohol in the evening might make you sleepy, but experts warn that it can lead to more disrupted rest.

Stay Active

Regular exercise should help you sleep more soundly, but health authorities caution against working out 2-3 hours before your bedtime since the energy boost could make it harder to fall asleep.

Don’t Eat Too Late

Depending on your schedule, you may find yourself eating meals later than usual. However, a full stomach could leave you feeling uncomfortable during the night. Instead of a big meal to curb your appetite, have a light snack. This way, you won’t have hunger pains, and you also won’t be so full that you don’t sleep well.

No Screen Time Before Bed

Access to screens, including cell phones, computers, and televisions, should be cut off at least an hour before bed. This is because the blue light[15] emitted from these devices can affect your body’s internal clock, causing you to feel more alert.

Create a Relaxing Nighttime Routine

Rather than reaching for your phone before bed, try creating a relaxing nightly routine for yourself, which should help make falling asleep much easier. For example, you could read a book, drink chamomile tea, take a warm bath, or meditate.

Read More: 9 Simple Bedtime Rituals

Jill Zwarensteyn

Jill Zwarensteyn


About Author

Jill Zwarensteyn is the Editor for Sleep Advisor and a Certified Sleep Science Coach. She is enthusiastic about providing helpful and engaging information on all things sleep and wellness.

Combination Sleeper

Education & Credentials

  • Certified Sleep Science Coach

Sources and References:

[1] Kirsten, Weir, “The power of restorative sleep.”, American Psychological Association, 2017.

[2] “In U.S., 40% Get Less Than Recommended Amount of Sleep”, Gallup, 2013.

[3] “Sleep Deprivation”, American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 2008.

[4] “Sleep”, Harvard School of Public Health

[5] Mohammed A. Al-Abri, Deepali Jaju, Khamis Al-Hashmi, “Habitual Sleep Deprivation is Associated with Type 2 Diabetes: A Case-Control Study”, National Center for Biotechnology Information, 2016.

[6] Allison B. Williams, Joseph M. Dzierzewski, Sarah C. Griffin, Mackenzie J. Lind, Danielle Dick, Bruce D. Rybarczyk, “Insomnia Disorder and Behaviorally Induced Insufficient Sleep Syndrome: Prevalence and Relationship to Depression in College Students”, National Center for Biotechnology Information, 2019.

[7] “Coping with Shift Work”, UCLA Health

[8] “Oversleeping: Bad for Your Health?”, Johns Hopkins Medicine

[9] Babak Mokhlesi, Karla A. Temple, Ashley H. Tjaden, Sharon L. Edelstein, Kristina M. Utzschneider, Kristen J. Nadeau, Tamara S. Hannon, et al. “Association of Self-Reported Sleep and Circadian Measures With Glycemia in Adults With Prediabetes or Recently Diagnosed Untreated Type 2 Diabetes”, American Diabetes Association, 2019.

[10] Jean-Philippe Chaput MSc, Jean-Pierre Després PhD, Angelo Tremblay PhD, “The Association Between Sleep Duration and Weight Gain in Adults: A 6-Year Prospective Study from the Quebec Family Study”, National Center for Biotechnology Information, 2008.

[11] “What You Should Know About the Relationship Between Oversleeping and Depression”, Cleveland Clinic, 2020.

[12] “Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome”, Stanford Healthcare

[13] “10 Tips to Get More Sleep”, American Cancer Society, 2020.

[14] Christopher Drake PhD FAASM, Timothy Roehrs PhD FAASM, John Shambroom BS, Thomas Roth PhD, “Caffeine Effects on Sleep Taken 0, 3, or 6 Hours before Going to Bed”, Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 2013.

[15] “Blue light has a dark side”, Harvard Health, 2020.