After the First Sleep: The Myth of 8 Hours a Night

Between SleepStephanie Hegarty reports in BBC News:

We often worry about lying awake in the middle of the night – but it could be good for you. A growing body of evidence from both science and history suggests that the eight-hour sleep may be unnatural.

In the early 1990s, psychiatrist Thomas Wehr conducted an experiment in which a group of people were plunged into darkness for 14 hours every day for a month.

It took some time for their sleep to regulate but by the fourth week the subjects had settled into a very distinct sleeping pattern. They slept first for four hours, then woke for one or two hours before falling into a second four-hour sleep.

Though sleep scientists were impressed by the study, among the general public the idea that we must sleep for eight consecutive hours persists …

More: BBC News

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16 Comments on "After the First Sleep: The Myth of 8 Hours a Night"

  1. There’s nothing wrong with sleeping in sections but most people’s jobs just don’t allow for that. 

  2. I think the most important aspect is the total number of hours we sleep for every day and probably the right number is about eight hours; naturally if we sleep in sections we “waste” more time and most of the people can’t afford it; I think we must accustom ourselves to sleep in only one section, it’s more efficient.

  3.  This is great news! It’s 4:10 am and I have to get up at 9:30 am because I’m moving!
    I will sleep better knowing that I’ll get all the sleep I need!

  4. Yes Jaime Ann, since I’ve retired I sleep 4-6 hours at night and take lots of naps. It is wonderful. 

  5. I envy people who can go to sleep in seconds after laying their head on a pillow. 

  6. DeepCough | Mar 2, 2012 at 11:55 am |

    Truth is, 8 hours of sleep is only possible for people for work 16 hour shifts anyway.

  7. Darklydreaming22 | Mar 2, 2012 at 12:10 pm |

    Also I dont recall where but when i was in college i read a study about this very idea and it went even further as to prescribe times when the body would most benefit this 4hr pattern.
    sleep from 3-7 am, and pm for best rem cycles.

  8. Redacted | Mar 2, 2012 at 1:35 pm |

    It makes sense that we wouldn’t sleep all night, especially since the animals who eat humans are active most during the night. It would be very beneficial for a staggered sleep schedule so a few people would be up at any time keeping an eye out for lions.

  9. 4 + 4 = 8…..did the study show that between them they got up and drove around, danced, read, screwed, ate????? wtf thanks for the disinfo

    • Nirvanasteve | Mar 3, 2012 at 2:18 pm |

      “During this waking period people were quite active. They often got up, went to the toilet or smoked tobacco and some even visited neighbours. Most people stayed in bed, read, wrote and often prayed. Countless prayer manuals from the late 15th Century offered special prayers for the hours in between sleeps.” Next time I recommend reading the whole article before you criticize it for lack of information. 

  10. Coldrebel13 | Mar 3, 2012 at 10:07 am |

    This was just posted in BBC last week . . .

  11. Chris Maler | Mar 3, 2012 at 11:52 am |

    I’m reading The Head Trip right now .. I’ve been on Night Watch every night. 

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