Skip to comments.The myth of the eight-hour sleep
Posted on 02/23/2012 5:17:34 PM PST by grundle
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.
In 2001, historian Roger Ekirch of Virginia Tech published a seminal paper, drawn from 16 years of research, revealing a wealth of historical evidence that humans used to sleep in two distinct chunks.
His book At Day's Close: Night in Times Past, published four years later, unearths more than 500 references to a segmented sleeping pattern - in diaries, court records, medical books and literature, from Homer's Odyssey to an anthropological account of modern tribes in Nigeria.
Much like the experience of Wehr's subjects, these references describe a first sleep which began about two hours after dusk, followed by waking period of one or two hours and then a second sleep.
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.
(Excerpt) Read more at bbc.co.uk ...
special prayers for the hours in between sleeps.
Oh lord, let me go back to sleep.
I pretty much sleep like that.
It’s good to know it’s natural.
Why would this guy have to plunge people into darkness for 14 hours? Couldn’t he just interview a Swede in wintertime?
Interesting article. I worked night shifts for nearly 20 years, at the end of which time my whole internal clock was out of whack. I ended up sleeping in stages consisting of four hours’ sleep, three hours’ waking and another three hours’ sleep. My most productive time is the three hours between sleeps, although admittedly it takes me more than half an hour to get my equilibrium right following the first awakening.
I remember as a child, my head would hit the pillow after a rigorous day going full steam, and it seemed I’d wake to daylight 3 seconds later, fully rested.
I think that’s natural for small kids.
You a CPAP user? :) I saw this on cpaptalk.com earlier today....interesting read.
He tried that first. He sent his sister to interview a Swede in wintertime. But she got bitten by a moose.
This is my default sleep pattern, when I have time for it.
As I recall this experiment, he was wanting to see what sort of schedule people would keep, if they were free from any way of regulating their body clock. So, no clocks or sun or anything was allowed.
The people were free to do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. Whether it be watch tv, on vcr tapes, or play board games, or read.
They just weren’t free to keep track of anytime whatsoever.
Any correlation with the other primates, particularly the great apes?
Was there cheese involved?
8 hour sleep? What is that? Isn’t 4 the norm? (at least for me it is... out by 1, up by 5).
But last year I was house sitting a friends place and did have one night in which I sleep the entire 8 hours. Brother, did I ever feel great the next day. Must have been the wonderful bed I was using.
Oh, i'll just BET they did. divorces followed.
either that, or shots rang out.
Depends on how much I drank the night before. 8 hrs usually at a minimum.
I think sleep needs vary tremendously by individual. I have always been a light sleeper and also have always slept 9 to 10 hours a night. When I was a teen it was 10 now that I am 65 it is 9. If I only get 7, I can function but will feel awful.
My Father was really strange. He could lie down just about anywhere and immediately go soundly to sleep. I could never do that.
Personally I wish I could figure out how not to sleep I would.
The sleep patterns people are talking about here are also interesting.
I go for about three weeks of sleeping about four hours, then one night I’ll sleep about ten hours. Weird, but it has been that way as long as I can remember.
Thanks for posting.
Whenever I have a sustained period of time off work, my pattern is 6-7 hours at night and 1-2 hours in the afternoon. I know for a lot of people, the early afternoon (2-4) is the low point of their day, energy-wise.
I usually sleep 7 hours. If I wake up after three hours, and stay up 2 hours and then sleep four hours, I’m dead tired all day. I always feel refreshed after 7 solid hours of sleep.
I have short sleep cycles as well - I really only sleep soundly for about 3 hours each night. On weekends it’s more of a 3-2-3 sleep-wake pattern, but on workdays the second three is only a dream :)
Pretty much me too.
The best sleep is the last 30 minutes.
Power naps - that’s the secret.
You are correct, in fact I think that is where the “tea” at 4 o’clock came from. Like a perk me up.
I had to do that for about 9months.
I was running a 24 hour convenience store, and I only had an employee work 2 days a week.
I kept it open and learned how to meditate (so I wouldn’t sleep) for 12 hours a day, so I could work the other 12 hours.
It’s been a couple of years since I did that and my ability to sleep is still all screwed up. But I did pick up a trick of how to not sleep for extended periods.
And they change over our lifetimes.........
Generally lot's when we are growing, then less when we are adults. But even then it waxes and wanes....from 6 to 10 hrs a day.
Of course there are variables....but that's close.
seven to eight...i can get by on less but then i need to catch up
powernap sometimes too...20min in the middle of the day is a great restorative
I have a friend who was a Navy pilot for years and then a
commercial pilot until retirement. He never got into a sleep
pattern. He could sleep and be up on about any schedule as
long as the rest averaged out well. He could do this.
Whether I wake up between sleeps is entirely dependent on how much beer I drink.
I’ve taken to sleeping this way. Trouble is if I work too long in the middle time I sleep real late.
While in the Army we worked swing shifts. 6 days on, 2 days off on days, then 6 days on and 2 days off on afternoons, then 6 days on and 3 days off on midnights......
I can't say that I had any problem with it, it was just something we had to accept.
I had the good fortune to have a few months of free time several years back and tested my natural sleep patterns. Turned out that my ideal is 18 hours awake then 8 hours of sleep. Perhaps the human race originated on a planet with 26 hour days?
***Interesting article. I worked night shifts for nearly 20 years,***
I worked an 8 hour rotating shift for about ten years. Midnights, evenings, days. Four days off between. Talk about messing you up!
Then we went to an 8 hour forward rotation for about 15 years. Midnights, days, evenings. Much better as that was in sync with our body clocks.
Then the fools voted to have a 12 hour day rotating. 4 midnights, 1 1/2 days off, then 3 days. Then three days off, and 3 midnights, 1 1/2 days off, and 4 day shifts, 6AM to 6PM.
Thought I was gonna die! Finally I had to retire or or fall over dead as I kept falling asleep at work in a very stressful job.
The fools wanted the 12 hour rotating shift as it gave them about 20 days off in a row. The problem was so many people were calling in sick that no one ever got 20 days off.
I’ve been waking after about 4 hours of sleep. Then I’m awake, usually until time for the alarm clock to go off, when I’m ready to go to sleep again. The following day just KILLS me, then I sleep all night the next night, then normal for the rest of the week. The last night of my weekend, I lather, rinse, and repeat.
Maybe it will help, if you go to bed earlier.
If you know you’ll be awake in 4 hours, have something productive, but boring to do during those couple of hourse. I’ve heard reading is the best thing for combatting sleeplessness.
Regular night-time sleep of 7-8 hours works best for me.
Too bad it is a luxury seldom enjoyed due to a really inconsiderate elderly mother who lives nearby and will not stop early a.m. phone calls or banging on the door “just to make sure you’re alright”,despite my 2nd/3rd work schedule.Before that it was a wife who thought sleeping from 1am to 6am should be plenty since I only worked 60-64 hours a week!
The angel is gonna have to sound the Trumpet a second time for some of us.
7-8 hours becomes 5-6 and up for Government Arbeitsziehungslager bondage, for government salaries pensions and “insurance” contractors.
5-6 becomes 3-4 and up for Government Arbeitsziehungslager bondage, for government salaries pensions and “insurance” contractors.
3-4 and up then sleep, becomes 3-4 no sleep, up for Government Arbeitsziehungslager bondage, for government salaries pensions and “insurance” contractors.
I’ve always been nocturnal from the time I was a toddler. Over the years I worked both night shift/day shift at different times and ALWAYS was more productive/creative at 3 am rather than 3 pm. I really don’t get tired until the sun rises. Then I sleep erratically for the rest of the ‘night’.
Sounds weird, bit for me that’s ‘normal’. Or I’m a vampire and just haven’t realized it yet.
That last 30 minutes is the greatest.
Sleep patterns are highly individualistic. Siestas, or naps, depending upon your culture, are said by many to be healthy. I just can't. There is no way under God's yellow sun (literally) I can go to sleep while it's daylight. Close the blinds, close the curtains, paint the windows black -- doesn't matter; somehow my body knows.
I sometimes wish I could "bankroll" some sleep -- maybe grab a couple of hours of shuteye on a long plane flight, when I know a long period of activity awaits that night. No can do. I can't store up extra hours of sleep; but on the other hand, I can and do make up for a a few days of 6-hour sleep by sacking out for 9 hours. I need to average 7± hours, and I typically get it almost uninterrupted.
Almost, because I have to admit my sleep schedule is governed by my two big dogs (Weimaraners, who have a starring role on my FR home page). They invariably wake at first light, and spot a duck or a deer, or think they do. They have a dog door leading from my bedroom to their dog run, but they find it necessary to alert me to that fact before they bolt out the dog door. In a matter of seconds (as far as I know), I'm back asleep for another 60 to 90 minutes. Typically I awake unassisted the second time, as light enters from my east-facing bedroom window. But in case not, the dogs are there to remind me that it's breakfast time.
I know it did for me.
Quite true. Especially something really boring. I've used the bible books of Leviticus and Numbers.