The Eight Hours of Sleep a Night Myth

I slept in this morning.

Since starting work from home, I’ve noticed a peculiar thing happening. I get tired and go to bed around ten. Then, depending on whether or not I drank wine that evening, I wake up anywhere from four to six hours later. When I say “I wake up,” I mean that. I’m AWAKE.

So I get up, let Suki out, then fire up the computer and check email, read the news on G+ (that’s where I’m getting it lately, from people I have circled there), maybe do some research, even write or edit. Once, I even did a little book binding.

And then, an hour or two later, I go back to bed and return to sleep.

Sounds weird, huh? But I’ve been reading about sleep patterns lately, and apparently, the eight-hour night is a relatively new thing, foisted upon us by our modern workday. Read about it here.

Always, I’ve hated getting up to an alarm, and in winter, I hated getting up in the dark. It made me feel cranky and disoriented. I’ve been fortunate these last two or three years I could wake up naturally with the light and go to bed when I’m tired. I am much more rested and rarely feel the need for a nap during my natural bio downturn six hours after waking.

But the split night experience only started happening recently. I know it probably sounds odd to most of you, and I fought it at first, having been brainwashed into thinking I had to get eight straight hours of sleep every night or my head would explode, but it actually feels good to me now.

My brain can be quite active after my first few hours of sleep. Like I said, I can write or edit or even engage in mild physical labor such as book binding, and return to sleep with no difficulty.

If you ever get the chance to give it a try, do it and don’t freak out! This sleep pattern is apparently far more natural than we know.


About Fenraven

Fenraven happily lives in south Florida, where it is really hot most of the year. Find him on Twitter, Google +, and Facebook by searching on 'fenraven'.
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19 Responses to The Eight Hours of Sleep a Night Myth

  1. This is interesting, especially since I know several people who get up early to write. I went through a period last year where I didn’t go to sleep until 1-2 am and I wake between 630-700 daily (stupid real-world, day jog crap). I stopped doing that and my productivity suffered, greatly. I think that our ‘required sleep’ fluxates constantly, even from day to day, and that we shouldn’t hold to a prescribed number of hours. If you’re not tired, stay up. If you’re worn out, go to bed.

    It really should be that simple, darnit.

    • Oh, I totally agree! I happen to need about 7.5 hours a night, but how I get them doesn’t have to be in one chunk of time. When I was younger, I, too, stayed up until well after midnight, but I also slept later to get the rest I needed. Years of working a day job drastically changed my natural sleep schedule. Once a confirmed and happy night owl, I now get up with the light, and as the time of sunrise changes through the seasons, so does when I wake. In summer, I’m up early. In winter, much later.

      One day perhaps, people will look back at our artificial sleep time as nuts because it forced people into unnatural rest patterns that adversely affected health and productivity.

    • therealtbaggins says:

      My happiest writing time was last year, when I would wake every night around 4am (the time of obsession) and write for at least an hour. Oh, to have that wild inspiration back again…

      • I still do that. Wake in the middle of the night and lay there while stories run through my head, or solutions to plot problems on the WIP. Then I get up and write them down and sometimes stay up to create.

  2. W. Lotus says:

    For most of the year it feels as though I have been tired and groggy more often than not, except when I am working out. I am going to have to pay more attention to my natural body rhythms and see what happens with my sleep cycles and energy levels.

    • You work at home, yeah? You have a better chance of figuring that out than the wage slave who rises to an alarm every night and then forces themselves to go to bed at what may be, for them, an unnatural hour.

      It takes time to figure out what your body actually likes. I went through about a year of crazy sleep before realizing my changing sleep patterns were not only okay, but good for me.

  3. fransiweinstein says:

    Love afternoon naps.

  4. diannegray says:

    I sleep about 5 hours a night and usually don’t have a nap during the day. I find the more I sleep, the more I want to sleep (I’m thinking that sleep is addictive and the more I have the more tired I become). I love waking up at 4 am because I can get so much more done during the day. Sleep is such a personal thing and like everything else – if it suits you the way it is, stick to it! 😉

  5. I’ve also read that this is a more natural sleep pattern. It hasn’t worked out to be my natural pattern, at least yet. I love the idea of listening to your body enough to find your natural sleep pattern. Life without an alarm clock is lovely!

    • My alarm is really cool though. It’s one of those light clocks. Half an hour before the actual alarm goes off, the light starts to come up, gradually increasing in intensity until it’s fully bright. This worked better for me than being awakened by the beeping.

      However, I have to admit I tend to sleep under the covers, even my head, and I didn’t always see the light. ;/ I’m glad enough not to have to use an alarm right now.

  6. Lindsaysf says:

    Interesting! Sometimes I do this. But often I’m groggy the next day. Hmm. I’ll experiment.

    • It takes time to find your best sleep rhythm, and I do think that changes over a lifetime. What worked for you ten years ago might not work today and probably won’t work twenty years in the future.

      I think it’s as simple as this: wake up when you feel like it, go to bed when you’re tired.

  7. Elin Gregory says:

    That’s my ideal too. I love being awake to write in the still calm before dawn when i have the place to myself and my brain really sparks. But that’s for the summer. Our house is FREEZING in winter so I stay in bed and read instead.

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