Is the need for a straight eight hours of sleep every night a myth? Research suggests so

Thursday, March 14, 2013 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: sleep deprivation, eight hours, research

eTrust Pro Certified

Delicious Pin It
(NaturalNews) For decades, experts have told us that in order for our bodies to perform at their maximum level, we need at least eight hours of uninterrupted sleep a night. Increasingly, data suggests that old standard is not historically accurate.

A growing body of both scientific and historical research and information indicates that eight continual hours of sleep may be unnatural, and that waking up in the middle of the night could actually be good for a body.

Current research into the subject began in earnest in the early 1990s, the BBC reports, when psychiatrist Thomas Wehr began conducting experiments in which a group of people were placed in darkness for 14 hours every day for a month. It took a bit of time for them to regulate sleep but by the fourth week, the research subjects had settled into a distinct sleeping pattern.

Subjects slept for about four hours, then woke up for one or two hours before falling asleep again for another four hours.

Eight-hour block of sleep relatively new concept

Sleep scientists were impressed with the study's results but the general public still came away with the notion that eight hours of uninterrupted sleep is a must in order to maintain peak functionality and health.

Then, in 2001, historian Roger Ekirch of Virginia Tech University, in a paper drawing on 16 years of research, revealed "a wealth of historical evidence that humans used to sleep in two distinct chunks" of time, the British news service reported.

Ekirch published a book, "At Day's Close: Night in Times Past," four years later, in which he revealed more than 500 references to a segmented sleeping pattern. Such references were gleaned from diaries, medical books, court records and literature, the latter from Homer's Odyssey to an anthropological account of modern tribes located in Nigeria.

The references were like those reported by Wehr's subjects in that they describe a first sleep which began about two hours after dusk which were followed by waking periods of one to two hours, then a second block of sleep.

"It's not just the number of references - it is the way they refer to it, as if it was common knowledge," Ekirch said.

During the waking period people were very active, the research suggests. Often they would get up to go to the restroom, smoke and sometimes even visit neighbors, though most people, according to records, stayed in bed to read, write letters or pray.

Not all of the in-between waking hours were spent in solitude; often people talked to bedfellows or had sex. A physician's manual from 16th century France, for instance, advised couples that the best time to conceive a child was "after the first sleep," not at the end of a long day, "when they have more enjoyment" and "do it better."

By the 1920s, according to references, the idea of first- and second sleep had completely receded from social consciousness. Ekrich attributes that shift to better street lighting, domestic lighting and a surge in so-called coffee houses, many of which were open all night.

Per the BBC:

As the night became a place for legitimate activity and as that activity increased, the length of time people could dedicate to rest dwindled.

Nearly one-third of all American working adults get six hours or fewer a night

Historian Craig Koslofsky, in his new book, "Evening's Empire," discusses how this transformation happened.

"Associations with night before the 17th century were not good," he says, noting that night brought out people of disrepute, such as criminals, drunks and prostitutes. "Even the wealthy, who could afford candlelight, had better things to spend their money on. There was no prestige of social value associated with staying up all night."

That changed with technology.

"People were becoming increasingly time-conscious and sensitive to efficiency, certainly before the 19th century," says Ekirch. "But the industrial revolution intensified that attitude by leaps and bounds."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 41 million Americans, or nearly one-third of all working adults, get six hours of sleep or fewer per night.


Get breaking news alerts on GMOs, fluoride, superfoods, natural cures and more...
Join over four million monthly readers. Email privacy 100% protected. Unsubscribe at any time.

Have comments on this article? Post them here:

comments powered by Disqus

Take Action: Support

Email this article to a friend

Permalink to this article:

Reprinting this article: Non-commercial use OK, cite with clickable link.

Embed article link: (copy HTML code below):
Most Popular
Today | Week | Month | Year

See all Top Headlines...


Now Available at

O3 Essentials OraJuvenate™
A powerful, cleansing dental cream for maximum oral/dental health.
New Cancer Solutions
Over 3 hours of content covering today’s best cancer tests, how to kill cancer cells and the best diets and exercise routines.
Freeze-Dried 100% Organic Whole Corn
Our freeze-drying method preserves taste, texture and nutrients better than any other food preservation method ever invented.
Fenix TK35 Flashlight
Tough, waterproof, extremely bright and it’s touted to throw an 800+ lumen beam more than 1,000 feet into the night.
Inca Treasure Smoothie Pack
This pack of our four most popular superfoods from South America is the perfect combo pack for smoothie lovers.
Pink Himalayan Salt
This salt delivers significant levels of magnesium, zinc and selenium, with trace levels of dozens of other elements.
Pinhole Glasses - Aviator Style
Pinhole glasses are becoming famous for helping people improve their vision without the risks of laser surgery.
Oxy-Rich Facial Serum
O3 Essentials Jojoba Oxy-Rich Facial Serum is cellular nourishment for your skin. Helps smooth fine lines while enhancing tissue elasticity.
Freeze-Dried 100% Blackberry Halves
Our freeze-dried blackberry halves are grown in Serbia under strict organic standards.

Also on NaturalNews:

Health Ranger Videos
Activist music
CounterThink Cartoons
Food documentaries
FREE Special Reports
Colloidal Silver

Advertise with NaturalNews...

Support NaturalNews Sponsors:

Advertise with NaturalNews...

Most Popular Stories

Flu shot kills 19-year-old, but vaccine industry still has total immunity against lawsuits
Here's a nutty fact: Eating more tree nuts lowers the risk of all-cause death by up to 20 percent
Six important facts you're not being told about lost Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 now clearly a government cover-up: All evidence contradicts official story
10 other companies that use the same Subway yoga mat chemical in their buns
BLM fracking racket exposed! Armed siege and cattle theft from Bundy ranch really about fracking leases
High-dose vitamin C injections shown to annihilate cancer
U.S. treating meat with ammonia, bleach and antibiotics to kill the '24-hour sickness'
USDA to allow U.S. to be overrun with contaminated chicken from China
Vaccine fraud exposed: Measles and mumps making a huge comeback because vaccines are designed to fail, say Merck virologists
Battle for humanity nearly lost: global food supply deliberately engineered to end life, not nourish it
Diet soda, aspartame linked to premature deaths in women

25 Amazing Facts About Food

This FREE downloadable report unveils a collection of astonishing and little-known facts about the food we eat very day. Click here to read it now...


Resveratrol and its Effects on Human Health and Longevity - Myth or Miracle.

Unlock the secrets of cellular health with the "miracle" nutrient Resveratrol Click here to read it now...


Nutrition Can Save America

FREE online report shows how we can save America through a nutrition health care revolution. "Eating healthy is patriotic!" Click here to read it now...

The Healing Power of Sunlight and Vitamin D

In this exclusive interview, Dr. Michael Holick reveals fascinating facts on how vitamin D is created and used in the human body to ward off chronic diseases like cancer, osteoporosis, mental disorders and more. Click here to read it now...

Vaccines: Get the Full Story

The International Medical Council on Vaccination has released, exclusively through, a groundbreaking document containing the signatures of physicians, brain surgeons and professors, all of which have signed on to a document stating that vaccines pose a significant risk of harm to the health of children. Click here to read it now...

Health Ranger Storable Organics

GMO-free, chemical-free foods and superfoods for long-term storage and preparedness. See selection at

Recommended Resources On:

Natural News trends
Health Ranger news
Natural News GMOs
Mike Adams tracker
Natural News photos
Natural News Global
Natural News in focus
Natural News connect
Natural News shocking stories
Natural News radar
Health freedom
Dr. Paul Offit

This site is part of the Natural News Network © 2014 All Rights Reserved. Privacy | Terms All content posted on this site is commentary or opinion and is protected under Free Speech. Truth Publishing International, LTD. is not responsible for content written by contributing authors. The information on this site is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice of any kind. Truth Publishing assumes no responsibility for the use or misuse of this material. Your use of this website indicates your agreement to these terms and those published here. All trademarks, registered trademarks and servicemarks mentioned on this site are the property of their respective owners.

eTrust Pro Certified Android app on Google Play

Sign up for the FREE Natural News Email Newsletter

Receive breaking news on GMOs, vaccines, fluoride, radiation protection, natural cures, food safety alerts and interviews with the world's top experts on natural health and more.

Join over 7 million monthly readers of, the internet's No. 1 natural health news site. (Source:

Your email address *

Please enter the code you see above*

No Thanks

Already have it and love it!

Natural News supports and helps fund these organizations:

* Required. Once you click submit, we will send you an email asking you to confirm your free registration. Your privacy is assured and your information is kept confidential. You may unsubscribe at anytime.