Segmented sleep is a sleep pattern in which your night sleep is divided into two separate blocks, with a period of wakefulness in between.
Virginia Tech historian Roger Ekirch, who spent 16 years researching segmented sleep, found considerable evidence showing that earlier generations had a first sleep just after dusk, followed by an hour or two of being awake. The time was often spent in a relaxed state of prayer or meditation. Then it was back to bed for a second sleep that lasted until morning.
The “second sleep” likely disappeared as a result of the increasing prevalence of artificial light, probably in the 1920’s.
Healthy Sleep – Doctor’s Do Not Agree
But doctors don’t necessarily agree. “Segmented sleep may have been natural for our ancestors,” says Timothy A. Connolly, MD, a sleep specialist at the Center of Sleep Medicine at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in Houston, “but today, sleeping in shorter sessions is difficult, impractical, and can be destructive.” “Four to five hours of sleep is not enough,” says Connolly. “It may not impact you immediately, but if you continue this pattern, your health will suffer. Disrupting your sleep/wake cycle can put every cell, tissue, and organ in your body at risk and lead to serious medical problems such as obesity, stroke, heart disease, and mood disorders.”
Benefits of an 8-hour Sleep
Healthy sleep is different for every individual, but Connolly says that most adults need about 8 hours of sleep a night. “Studies show adults who consistently sleep 7 to 8 hours every night live longest,” he says. “Some people require just 6 hours and others may need 10, but we all need good quality sleep, and that means staying asleep for a set chunk of time. Sleep is essential to overall body health,” he adds. “Deep sleep repairs and renews your body. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep recharges your brain.”
Waking at Night
I wake up during the night for a bathroom break, but usually, I can go right back to sleep. If you wake up and cannot go back to sleep, Connolly says avoid looking at the clock, do something relaxing, like reading a book or listening to music. Stay away from the computer and the TV — both produce too much artificial light and can overstimulate your brain.
I do have one or two nights a month where I cannot sleep and am usually awake until 2 am. I hate when that happens! I do notice it the next day and those are the days I will need a nap late afternoon.
Practice Good Sleep Habits – Am I Doing It Wrong?
Dr. Connolly’s advice: “Treat yourself like a 3-year-old. ”
- Set a bedtime schedule and stick to it.
- Don’t drink alcohol or caffeine or eat heavily close to bedtime.
- Exercise early in the day.
- Turn off the computer when the sun goes down to avoid the strong artificial light.
- Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and free of electronic noise and light.
I think I am doing it all wrong! I have a routine ▬ I have my warm epsom salts bath. and a glass of lemon water (which is why I need to run to the bathroom during the night) to which I add a packet of the blue green algae.
I also include a snack to ward off hunger pangs. I do not sleep well if I go to bed on an empty stomach.
I do agree on having the room cold, but before falling asleep, my large pup, Lola, and my cat, Penny, share the warmth of an electric blanket, which I turn off at sleep-time.
I am also multi-tasking at bedtime, watching tv as I use the computer.
I think we may need to find what works for us individually or else I am an enigma! All I know is if I break up my routine, I do have a problem falling asleep.
Segmented Sleep or 8 to 10 hours of sleep straight through the night? The debate rages on.