Why 8 hours of sleep doesn’t work

I’ve admitted before that I have trouble sleeping. Since I get up between 4am and 5am most days, I am exhausted by as early as 7pm. Unfortunately, if I go to bed earlier like at 9pm, I am likely to be awake in the middle of the night. So I was just getting less sleep most nights and hoping I wouldn’t wake up.

Instead of 8 hours of sleep, Try two stages

Then I caught this article posted by a few Facebook friends, The Myth of the 8 hour sleep. It gives a whole historical perspective to sleep but the essence is that you actually do better by sleeping in two stages:

But the majority of doctors still fail to acknowledge that a consolidated eight-hour sleep may be unnatural.

“Over 30% of the medical problems that doctors are faced with stem directly or indirectly from sleep. But sleep has been ignored in medical training and there are very few centres where sleep is studied,” he says.

Should you abandon 8 hours of sleep?

I decided to give this a try. So last night, I made sure I had things to do if I woke up. I don’t want to wake everyone else. But I wrote my to-do list which is so hard to do at night when I am exhausted and then I read a worksheet for the first client this morning and made notes. I still wasn’t tired so I gave me permission to read a few pages in a book and found myself getting tired again.

Jacobs suggests that the waking period between sleeps, when people were forced into periods of rest and relaxation, could have played an important part in the human capacity to regulate stress naturally.

When stress interrupts our sleep, we can either be annoyed or try a different path. I woke up and have already completed multiple things on the to-do list and find I am more alert than the nights I fret about being awake.

I know I am not alone. I have clients who complain they were not sleeping and some admitted it was taking a toll on them.

What do you think? Getting a good night’s sleep is critical to successful functioning whether you are an entrepreneur, employee, stay-at-home mom, job seeker, or student. Do you think giving yourself permission to try two-stage sleep would help?

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Why 8 hours of sleep doesn\'t work


  1. Melissa Cooley on February 28, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    It’s good that doctors are recognizing that many things are not one way for everyone. I remember one of my professors from college who said that he only got about four hours of sleep a night. That’s really all he needed, and he was in good physical condition. I tend to sleep in a 6-8 hour block of time. You (and others) do better in phases. As long as it leads to feeling better during the day and more productivity, that is what matters!

    • Julie Walraven on February 28, 2012 at 3:40 pm

      I love getting permission from experts when things don’t seem normal in my life. I know I need sleep but the straight 8 hour plan rarely works for me. Thanks for stopping by, Melissa!

  2. Anna on February 28, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    During the summer I prefer a biphasic sleep cycle–better known as siesta style! If I can’t do that I sleep either midnight to 9 or from 2 am to 10 am.

    Glad to hear you’ve found something working better for you!

    • Julie Walraven on February 28, 2012 at 6:03 pm

      You are young yet, Anna. I have not been able to stay up to midnight very often. I usually even go to sleep early on New year’s eve but then I get up between 4am and 5am… I just find that giving myself permission for things makes them work out better.

  3. Linda on February 29, 2012 at 6:05 am

    Shocked!! Didn’t realise there were people who don’t get up at 4:00 – best time of the day for so many reasons (too many to list, but the bird calls feature high!). But then, I also like the night owls too – deep in the dark of night is one of my best times for being creative. The sleep thing is vastly over-rated and doesn’t seem to produce much except a bad hairdo!

    • Julie Walraven on March 1, 2012 at 6:01 am

      Too much sleep is hard on you but too little is too… Glad you appreciate your early mornings!

  4. AnnaLou on March 1, 2012 at 5:13 am

    Hi Julie…I am really thankful that I have found the post here…I don’t even have 8 hours of sleep always…I think my longest is about 6 or 7 hours…

    • Julie Walraven on November 22, 2012 at 6:22 am

      It may be all your body needs, AnnaLou!

  5. Timo on November 21, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    I am an 8-hour sleeper, and that’s my pattern regardless of my falling asleep time.
    But I have a friend of mine who gets headaches during the day if he sleeps more than 5 hours in the night before.

    • Julie Walraven on November 22, 2012 at 6:25 am

      Thanks for stopping by, Timo, 8 hours is a great place to be. I know that some people thrive on very little sleep and others just struggle with getting it. I think sometimes it is also our attitude toward it. If your friend functions fine on 5 hours then he probably should try to assure that 5 hours remains his sleep time but perhaps test it now and then. Not so he can see if he gets headaches but as we get older, we change and tend to need more or less sleep.

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