Why 8 Hours Sleep is Unnatural
February 27, 2014
By Sano Mag staff
Why 8 Hours Sleep is Unnatural
The notion of getting 8 hours of sleep a night has been ingrained in most of us for as long as we can remember.

For many, sleeping is a constant struggle, and waking up during the night is considered unnatural and sends us into a self chant of "go back to sleep, I have to get up in [insert figure here] hours!"

But what if we told you that new evidence suggests 8 hours might not be the most natural sleep pattern for humans after all?

Two Four Hour Sleep Cycles is the Most Natural

There have been a number of experiments that suggest waking up in the middle of the night is completely natural. In fact, our ancestors have been taking advantage of this natural sleep cycle for generations.

One experiment where participants were plunged into darkness for 14 hours found that after a few weeks, people would naturally fall into a sleeping pattern where they would sleep for four hours, wake for an hour or two, then sleep again for four hours.

And historians have recently found substantial evidence that shows humans slept in two sleep cycles, something which was apparently common knowledge at the time.

Historian Roger Ekirch found people would utilise the waking hours in the middle of the night to think about things (akin to meditation), or participate in more vigorous activities such as making love.

It wasn't until the late 17th century, when major European cities began to light up their streets at night, that being awake at night became fashionable and spending hours in bed was thought to be a waste of time. By the 1920s, the sleep pattern of two four hour cycles had slipped from social consciousness.

Waking During the Night is Natural

Many, many people find themselves waking during the night and then having a lot of trouble getting back to sleep. So many, in fact, that the condition has a label: sleep maintenance insomnia.

Sleep psychologist Gregg Jacobs says the consequence of humans having strayed from their evolutionary pattern of waking up during the night has led to a range of anxiety problems.

The idea that humans must sleep in one block of 6-8 hours leaves people feeling very anxious when they wake up at night. This anxiety then creeps into their waking life.

Jacobs believes that our ancestors' ability to relax between the two sleep cycles may actually have played an important role in their capacity to regulate stress naturally.

Natural Sleep Patterns – How to Sleep Naturally

Time pressures can be a big hurdle in getting good quality sleep and can add extra stress around sleeping. However, if you are serious about regulating your sleep patterns then you need to dedicate the time to lie in bed. That may mean eating earlier and skipping the night-time television.

By allowing yourself to relax when you wake in the middle of the night, think about your dreams and contemplate your life, this will help you tap into your body's natural rhythm as well as deal with daily stressors. Failing to do so can increase anxiety, stress and depression.
"There have been a number of experiments that suggest waking up in the middle of the night is completely natural. In fact, our ancestors have been taking advantage of this natural sleep cycle for generations. "