Is some sleep better than none?

To sleep or not to sleep is something that most of us have been wondering about. Doing an all-nighter is often associated with late-night school assignments or work, but also appears in adulthood from time to time.

To answer this question I have been researching different studies made professionally and looked at answers from individual people.

In almost every case some sleep is better than none. You should try to nap for 20-40 minutes or try to sleep efficiently by reaching as many full sleep cycles as possible, so you reach all stages of sleep. In general, a full sleep cycle takes 90 minutes to reach.

Table of contents

  1. How a sleep cycle works
  2. The amount of sleep matters
  3. Short term downsides of skipping sleep
  4. Long term downsides of skipping sleep
  5. Insufficient sleep is associated with car crashes
  6. Reasons to skip sleep
  7. Benefits of getting a bit of sleep
  8. Conclusion

How the human sleep cycle works

A full sleep cycle usually takes 90 minutes to reach in normal circumstances. Whenever we sleep our body goes through 4 different stages that are characterized by physical patterns and how they are beneficial to our bodies. 

All of the stages are crucial for our well being as humans and should not be neglected long term.

The amount of sleep matters

Amount of sleepNap1 cycles2 cycles3 cycles4 cycles5 cycles
Minutes slept20-4090180270360450

The number of hours we sleep matters whenever we want to explore how to sleep as efficiently as possible. If you have less than an hour available you should try to nap for 20-40 minutes to refreshen your body. 

If you have a few hours available you should try to maximize your sleep by reaching full cycles of 90 minutes reach. Meaning that if you have two hours available then sleeping for just 1 hour and a half would feel just the same way. 

Generally, you will feel less tired if you wake up at the end of a sleep cycle rather than in the middle of a sleep cycle. Waking up in the middle can cause you to feel more tired and irritable. 

On the table below you can see the amount of minutes, you should try to sleep to maximize your sleep.

If you do not feel like calculating we can recommend this website to calculate the time for you

Short term downsides of skipping sleep

Whenever skipping sleep you will usually experience at least one of the downsides below.

  • Poor concentration
  • Vulnerability to stress
  • Mood swings
  • Slow reaction time
  • Lack of awareness

All of these downsides are immediate if you do not get enough sleep. If you have been awake for a short time it will not be as severe, but as time goes on it will be more severe.

Source: NCBI

Besides those immediate effects, there is also a chance that you will be more likely to mess up your circadian rhythm causing you to sleep worse the next day. If you do this often it will have more long-term consequences.

Long term downsides of skipping sleep

If you neglect sleep for a longer period you will start to experience more severe consequences that can affect your health in negative ways. Below you can see some of the most common.

  • Weak immune system
  • Higher chance of obesity
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Diabetes
  • Low sex drive
  • Heart disease

The above-mentioned consequences should not be taken lightly so therefore you should try to avoid neglecting sleep as much as possible. 

Source: NHS

Insufficient sleep is associated with car crashes

“Sleep deficiency due to either sleep apnea or insufficient sleep duration is strongly associated with motor vehicle crashes in the general population, independent of self-reported excessive sleepiness.”

Source: NCBI

Severe sleep apnea was associated with a 123% higher risk of car crashes when compared to a group that had no sleep apnea. 

A study showed that a group of people with severe sleep apnea had a 123% higher risk of getting into a car crash when compared to a group that had no sleep apnea at all.

It also compared a group that slept 6 hours on average to a group that slept 7 to 8 hours a night. The group that only slept 6 hours on average had a 33% higher chance of getting into a car crash compared to the other group that slept 1 or 2 hours more.

Reasons to skip sleep

Although there are many short-term and long-term consequences of neglecting sleep there are still some reasons to do it.

Bad reasons to neglect sleep could be that you do not feel tired until late or that you have a lot of things that can only be done at night. This could be to play video games, browse the internet, or watch movies.

Besides that, some people postpone a lot of tasks throughout the day causing them to get stressed at night, which makes them neglect sleep so they can finish some of them. Most of these tasks are usually trivial things such as cleaning, sending an email, or things of such kind. In most scenarios, these can be postponed until the next day without affecting you at all or only affecting you a little bit.

A more legitimate reason to skip sleep is you have a very important task or deadline that has to be reached before morning. This could be an important assignment for school or an important paper for work.

It could also be due to personal things such as having to pack your back to reach a flight and so on.

Benefits of getting a bit of sleep

Just by taking a 20-40 minute nap, you can lessen the amount of fatigue, tiredness, and lack of concentration by a lot. 

A study from NASA showed that their airline pilot performed 34% better by napping and increased their alertness by up to 100% by napping.

If you can reach a whole sleep cycle you should try these improvements will help even more, which will reduce your likely hood of experienced the above mentioned short term consequences. 

Source: NASA


In conclusion, some sleep is always better than no sleep. Additionally, you should try to sleep as efficiently as possible to either napping for 20-40% minutes or sleeping for whole 90-minute sleep cycles.

If you need to drive somewhere it is always recommended to sleep as much as possible so your alertness will be at its fullest so you can drive safely.

In the long term, there will be more detrimental consequences that will affect you very negatively if you do not prioritize getting enough sleep.

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