Eight Hours Sleep a Myth?

Lying awake at night? Turns out, in some cases that might actually be good for you.

For some time now, the notion that eight hours uninterrupted sleep is best has predominated. But there may not be much evidence to back this up.

Segmented Sleep

Psychiatrist Thomas Wehr conducted an experiment in the early 1990s, where participants were placed in darkness for 14 hours every day, for one month. After the third week a distinct sleeping pattern began to emerge: people were sleeping in two blocks of four hours, with 1-2 hours of wakefulness in between.

While the findings impressed sleep researchers globally, this recommendation went more or less unnoticed by the general public.

Broken Sleep Common

According to historian Roger Ekirch however, up until the late 1600s this kind of segmented sleep was common in the western world.

As published in his upcoming book, At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past, Ekirch has uncovered over five hundred references supporting the prevalence of this type of sleep pattern: diaries, literature, medical books, even court records!

Inbetween Sleep Activities

The behaviour of people during the two sleep segment varies, from the mundane to the bizarre: Listening to Music; Watching Soap Operas; Yoga; Smoking; Reading; Dinner; Sex; Jogging; Photography; Painting; Praying; Meditation.

What do you think? What are your sleep patterns, and could you see any advantage to segmented sleep?


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