Piotr Wozniak, creator of the spaced-repetition software Supermemo, has a massive article on sleep and sleeping patterns on his webpage.
His main point seems to be that if ever possible, people should ditch alarm clocks and prefer -- as he calls it -- free-running sleep. For optimizing and measuring one's sleep patterns, he has written an excellent tiny Windows application called SleepChart. Thanks to this program, I finally came to my senses and beat an obvious (but neither admitted nor accepted) sleep deprivation.
That aside, Wozniak seems to be an odd, somewhat controversial guy, criticized by the people who advocate polyphasic sleep (another concept you'll probably soon be familiar with; however, see Wozniaks' views.)
Another thing to notice and take into account is the concept of sleep cycles. In other words, humans tend to sleep in approximately 1,5-hour cycles (this is, of course, individual). Thus we feel most refreshed when we get up in the end of a cycle, not in the middle. This means that you might feel yourself better after sleeping for 6 or 7,5 hours (having completed 4 or 5 cycles). But getting up after, say, 5 or 8 hours might result in grogginess because you interrupted a phase of deeper sleep.
I'm no expert, but I've been trying to figure out my "perfect" sleeping pattern for a couple of years. And I'd say following those cycles has helped me the most so far. (So I'm always aiming at getting 7,5 hours, not 8 hours of sleep. And I usually have a short, 30minute nap around noon.)
Taking a nap is, BTW, the third thing to look into. Wozniak has written a lot about this -- his thesis being that people get naturally tired after 7-9 hours of wake time, so it's healthy to have a short nap then. However, if a nap lasts longer than 20-30 minutes, you'll risk feeling groggy again, because you've once again interrupted a "wrong" phase of sleep. I'd say this theory works very well, too.
This is interesting stuff, so here are some more links for you: