Is 5 Hours of Sleep Enough? The Risks You Take by Sleeping Too Little

Fact Checked Medically reviewed by Tanja Premru-Sršen


If you’re like most people, you probably think that as long as you get a solid five hours of sleep, you’ll be just fine.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. A recent study has shown that getting just five hours of sleep can lead to lower cognitive performance, increased daytime sleepiness, and an increased risk of car accidents.

So how many hours of sleep do you really need?

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that the average sleep need for an adult is seven to nine hours per night.

However, sleep needs vary from person to person and can change throughout your lifetime. For example, if you’re going through a period of stress, you may need more sleep hours than usual.

If you’re getting less sleep time than you need, you may not be able to think as clearly, react as quickly, or make decisions as well as you normally would. You may also be more likely to have mood swings, feel irritable, or become easily agitated.

Not getting enough sleep can also affect your physical health. Studies have shown that people who sleep less than six hours a night are more likely to develop chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

Getting a healthy sleep is also important for our safety. Sleep deprivation can lead to accidents and errors, which can be dangerous or even deadly.

If you’re not getting enough sleep, there are a number of things you can do to improve your sleep habits. But first, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why sleeping too little is bad for you.

5 Reasons Why It Is Bad

1. It Can Affect Your Physical Health

Getting too little sleep can take a toll on your physical health. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body doesn’t have time to recover from the day’s activities. This can lead to fatigue, aches and pains, and a general feeling of not being well.

Sleep deprivation can also weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to illness. You may also be at greater risk for obesity, heart disease, and diabetes if you don’t get enough sleep.

2. It Can Affect Your Mental Health

Sleep is important for our mental health as well. When we don’t get enough sleep, we may have trouble concentrating, making decisions, and solving problems. Our brain performance declines, and we may feel more forgetful, irritable, and anxious.

People who don’t get enough sleep are also at greater risk for depression and other mental health disorders. Research has shown that sleep deprivation can worsen the symptoms of mental illness and make it more difficult to recover.

3. It Can Affect Your Safety

Sleep deprivation can be dangerous. When we’re tired, we’re more likely to make mistakes and have accidents. This is why drowsy driving is so dangerous.

Drivers who are sleep-deprived are more likely to get into accidents than drivers who are well-rested.

4. It Can Affect Your Work

If you’re not getting enough sleep, it can affect your work. You may have trouble concentrating and make more mistakes. You may also be less productive overall.

According to one study, workers who are sleep-deprived are more likely to call in sick, have workplace accidents, and make errors that can cost their employers money.

5. It Can Affect Your Relationships

Your relationships can also suffer if you’re not getting enough sleep.

You may be more short-tempered and irritable with the people you love. You may also have less patience and have a harder time listening to others.

If you’re not getting enough sleep, it’s important to do something about it. There are a number of things you can do to improve your sleep habits.

Symptoms of Too Little Sleep

There are a number of symptoms that can indicate you’re not getting enough sleep. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Yawning and fatigue during the day
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Memory problems
  • Irritability or moodiness
  • Trouble controlling your emotions
  • Excessive sleepiness or falling asleep during the day
  • Difficulty staying awake while driving or doing other activities
  • Increase in accidents or errors
  • Withdrawing from social activities

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to talk to your doctor.

They can help you determine if you’re getting enough sleep and make recommendations for improving your sleep habits.

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

Most adults need between seven to eight hours of sleep per day. However, some people may need more or less than that. Here are some factors that can affect how much sleep you need:

  • Age: Young adults and teenagers typically need more sleep than adults.
  • Pregnancy: Pregnant women often need more sleep than they did before they were pregnant.
  • Sleep debt: If you’ve been sleeping less than usual, you may need more sleep to make up for the lost sleep.

The table below shows how many hours of sleep people of different ages need.

How Bad It Is in Short and Long Term

Getting too little sleep can have a number of short-term and long-term effects.

Short Term Effects

Sleep debt (acute sleep deprivation) is the term used to describe the effects of not getting enough sleep for the past few days. The effects of sleep debt can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Moodiness
  • Irritability
  • Impaired cognitive function (to the point that your blood alcohol level would be above the legal limit if you were driving)

Long Term Effects

Chronic sleep deprivation is when you consistently don’t get enough sleep over a long period of time. The effects of chronic sleep deprivation can include:

  • Weight gain
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Decreased life expectancy
  • Weakened immune system

Reasons Why We Don’t Get Enough Sleep

There are a number of reasons why people don’t get enough sleep. Here are some of the most common ones:

Work Schedules

People who work night shifts or have irregular work hours may find it difficult to get enough sleep.

This can be especially true if they have young children at home. Irregular or long work hours can also lead to shift work sleep disorder.


Anxiety, worry, and stress can all lead to difficulty sleeping. This is because these emotions can make it hard to fall asleep and can cause you to wake up during the night.


The use of electronic devices before bed can make it difficult to fall asleep. The bright light from screens can stimulate the brain and make it harder to wind down for the night.

Behaviorally Induced Insufficient Sleep Syndrome (ISS)

Behaviorally induced insufficient sleep syndrome (ISS) is when a person doesn’t get enough sleep because of their own choices and behaviors.

This can include things like working late into the night or watching tv instead of going to bed.

Personal Obligations

People who have young children or elderly parents may find it difficult to get enough sleep because they are up caring for their loved ones during the night.

Study obligations can also make it hard to get enough sleep, especially if you are pulling all-nighters to complete assignments.

Underlying Health Conditions

Certain health conditions can make it difficult to get enough sleep. Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, can cause people to wake up multiple times during the night.

Mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, can also make it hard to sleep.

How to Improve Your Sleep

If you’re having trouble sleeping, there are a number of things you can do to improve your sleep. Here are some tips:

  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule: This means going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, even on weekends. Sticking to a regular sleep schedule will help to regulate your body’s natural sleep rhythm.
  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine: A bedtime routine can help to signal to your body that it’s time to wind down for the night. This can include things like taking a bath, reading a book, or stretching.
  • Create a sleep-friendly environment: This means making sure that your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool. You may also want to consider using a white noise machine to help block out any outside noise. This way you’ll be able to get enough deep sleep.
  • Avoid stimulants: Caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol can all lead to difficulty sleeping. Avoid these substances in the hours leading up to bedtime.
  • Exercise: Getting regular exercise can help to improve your REM sleep. However, it’s best to avoid exercising in the hours before bedtime as this can make it harder to fall asleep.
  • Get help: If you’re still having trouble sleeping, it may be time to seek out professional help. A doctor or sleep specialist can help to identify any underlying health conditions that may be causing your sleep problems. They can also provide you with additional tips and strategies for improving your sleep.

Final Thoughts

While you may think that you can function on just a few hours of sleep, the truth is that you are putting yourself at risk by doing so.

Getting less than seven hours of sleep is associated with an increased risk of car accidents, lower cognitive performance, and increased daytime sleepiness.

So, if you’re having trouble sleeping, be sure to take the above steps to improve your sleep. If you’re still struggling, don’t hesitate to seek out professional help.

Getting the proper amount of sleep is essential for your health and well-being.