How to Condition Your Body to Need Less Sleep

Three Parts:Preparing Your Mind and BodyGradually Scaling BackKnowing the Risks

If you have a busy schedule, you might like to spend less time sleeping. While long-term sleep deprivation is a bad idea, there are steps you can take to sleep less for a short period. Take time to prepare your mind and body, gradually cut back on sleep, and return to a normal schedule if you notice any effects on your health or well being.

Part 1
Preparing Your Mind and Body

  1. Image titled Condition Your Body to Need Less Sleep Step 1
    Exercise. If you expect to function without sleep you'll have to build up your body's overall strength. Exercising three or four times a week can build your overall strength and stamina, resulting in you needing less sleep.
    • Focus on aerobics, like running or jogging, as well as mild weight training, such as lifting weights, doing push or sit ups, and Pilates.[1]
    • Exercise in the afternoon is ideal as your overall sleep quality at night improves. This means you get higher quality sleep overall, which may lead to you needing less sleep.[2]
  2. Image titled Condition Your Body to Need Less Sleep Step 2
    Cut out certain substances. Alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine all mess with your sleep schedule. If you want to function on less sleep you need to take steps to assure your sleep is high quality.
    • Alcohol can help you fall asleep faster. However, once you do fall asleep the sleep you have is of a lesser quality. You'll end up needing to sleep more. Ditch alcohol, only drinking on occasion and in moderation.[3]
    • Caffeine stays in the body for up to six hours after you drink it. Drinking caffeine in the late afternoon can affect your ability to sleep at night. It's best to stick to coffee in the mornings without going overboard. One or two 8 ounce cups a day should be enough.[4]
    • Nicotine, in addition to leading to many health problems, is a stimulant. Smoking cigarettes throughout the day can lead to trouble sleeping at night. Not to mention tobacco weakens your body and immune system, meaning you'll need more sleep for strength. If you want to go on less sleep, take steps to quit smoking.[5]
  3. Image titled Condition Your Body to Need Less Sleep Step 3
    Develop a sleep routine. Work on improving your sleep schedule before trying to cut back on sleep. Take measures to assure you fall asleep quickly and wake up feeling refreshed.
    • Go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time every night. Your body has a natural circadian rhythm that adjusts to a regular sleep/wake cycle. If you keep your bedtime and waking time the same each day, you'll feel tired naturally at night and wake up refreshed in the morning.[6]
    • Avoid electronic screens in the hours leading up to bedtime. The blue light that comes from smartphones and laptops has a stimulating effect on the body that makes nodding off difficult.[7]
    • Have some kind of bedtime ritual. If your body associates a certain activity with bedtime, you'll naturally feel tired in response to that activity. Pick something relaxing to do, like reading a book or doing a crossword puzzle.[8]
  4. Image titled Condition Your Body to Need Less Sleep Step 4
    Keep your bedroom environment sleep friendly. Remember, to sleep less you need to make sure your sleep is of as high quality as possible. To do so, make sure your bedroom is sleep friendly.
    • Check your mattress and pillows. They should be firm and supportive and not result in you feeling sore. Pillows and bedding should be free of any allergens, that could cause irritation and keep you up at night.[9]
    • Keep your room cool. The ideal sleeping temperature is between 60 and 67°F (15.5 to 19.4°C).[10]
    • If you live in a noisy building or area, consider investing in a white noise machine to block out unwanted sound.[11]

Part 2
Gradually Scaling Back

  1. Image titled Condition Your Body to Need Less Sleep Step 5
    Reduce the number of hours you sleep gradually. If you try to go from sleeping nine hours a night to sleeping six, it's going to backfire. Work on gradually delaying your bedtime or getting up earlier.
    • For the first week, go to sleep 20 minutes later or get up 20 minutes earlier than usual. For the second week, add another 20 minutes. For the third week, move your bedtime or wake time back or forward by an hour.[12]
    • Continue cutting back by 20 minute intervals each week.[13]
  2. Image titled Condition Your Body to Need Less Sleep Step 6
    Be patient. You'll likely experience fatigue for the first few weeks. It will take your body time to adjust to less sleep. If fatigue is getting to you, change your diet by adding healthier, energy-stimulating foods and exercising more to rev up the quality of your sleep.[14]
  3. Image titled Condition Your Body to Need Less Sleep Step 7
    Aim for six hours of sleep each night. Six hours of sleep a night should be your goal. You can still function relatively well, if you maintain the quality of that sleep. Anything less than this could pose major health risks.[15]

Part 3
Knowing the Risks

  1. Image titled Condition Your Body to Need Less Sleep Step 8
    Do not sleep less than five and a half hours a night. The absolute least amount you can sleep is five and a half hours a night. Sleep studies that monitored the effects of sleep deprivation on the brain report subjects who get less sleep than this report severe fatigue and reduced ability to function in day-to-day life.[16]
  2. Image titled Condition Your Body to Need Less Sleep Step 10
    Watch for ill health effects. Sleep deprivation can be dangerous. If you experience any of the following, you may want to consider returning to your regular sleep schedule:[17]
    • Increased hunger
    • Changes in weight
    • Loss of short term memory
    • Impulsive behaviors
    • Poor motor skills
    • Changes in skin
    • Blurred vision
  3. Image titled Condition Your Body to Need Less Sleep Step 9
    Understand sleeping less is difficult to maintain long-term. While you can cut back on sleep for short periods of time, sleeping less than eight hours a night is not recommended long-term. Eventually, your functioning will slip and you'll need to catch up on sleep.
    • How much sleep you need varies based on lifestyle. However, most people need at least eight hours of sleep a night. Regularly getting less than this is bad for your concentration.[18]
    • If you continuously run on six hours a night, you'll create what's called a sleep debt. Your body will crave more sleep than you're providing. Eventually, you'll end up crashing. If you're trying to run on little sleep, make sure to only do so for a few weeks at a time before returning to eight hours a night.[19]


  • Do not attempt to operate a motor vehicle while running on less sleep. Falling asleep at the wheel can lead to potentially fatal car accidents.

Sources and Citations

Show more... (16)

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | Sleep Disorders