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Want To Sleep Better? Split Up Your Sleep Routine

Before electricity, humans didn’t sleep in one big chunk. Biphasic sleeping, or two phases of sleep, started when the sun set. After the “first sleep,” a waking period of 1 or 2 hours allowed time for de-stressing activities like prayer and meditation. The “second sleep” ended when the sun came up. This style of sleeping reduces stress levels and promotes better rest, as the body follows the natural light. Creativity and thinking can thrive with this habit.

For most of us, the daily grind looks pretty similar. You get up in the morning, work all day, and then go to bed after the sun goes down. Hopefully, you’ll get enough sleep so you can do it all over again. The goal? At least 7 straight hours of rest. But according to science, biphasic sleeping might be the best bet.

What Is Biphasic Sleeping?

This style of rest refers to two phases of sleep. It’s also how people slept for centuries. Back then, it was actually normal to sleep in two segments of 3 to 4 hours. The “first sleep” started as soon as the sun set, while the “second sleep” ended when the sun rose. In between, 1 or 2 hours were spent awake, doing activities like cleaning or preparing meals. But when electricity came along, humans ended up prolonging the day into one segment. As a result, sleep turned into a long continuous activity. Biphasic sleeping is actually common outside of Europe and North America. Examples include the Middle East, South Asia, and Latin America.1

Today, our culture looks at interruptions as a problem. We’re quick to label frequent awakenings as “insomnia,” even though this type of sleep was once normal. Of course, there were always afternoon naps, so the side effects of insomnia weren’t always present. The rise of caffeine intake doesn’t help, either. Coffee and energy drinks are delicious and keep us going, but they can also mess with our sleep. So, before you reach for another caffeinated drink, try biphasic sleeping. This approach has surprising benefits.

Benefits Of Biphasic Sleeping

1. Reduces Stress

If used productively, waking up at night need not be stressful.

Contrary to what you might think, waking up at night doesn’t have to be stressful. Back in the day, people used the short waking period for prayer, meditation, or making love. Such a quiet personal time is key for mental health.2

Today, that same waking period would be frowned upon. It’s easy for us to look at that time as “wasteful.” Instead, why not read a book or stretch? You might find that falling back asleep will feel more peaceful than before.

2. Provides Restful Sleep

The timing of biphasic sleeping ensures restful sleep

This might seem confusing. How can interrupting sleep make it better? It’s all about the timing. Since the “first sleep” begins when the sun sets, it coordinates your body with the darkness. The waking period also keeps the mind busy, which brings on another cycle of sleep. When it’s time to hit the hay, you’ll feel ready for a deep rest. Rising for the day also happens when the sun comes up. Again, this syncs up the body with daytime light.

3. Promotes Creativity

Biphasic sleeping promotes creativity

Want to help creativity thrive? Scientists think this style of sleeping will boost your creativity. The “first sleep” will leave you well rested, and the natural waking period will let creativity run wild. After the “second sleep,” you’ll be ready to do it all over again.

How To Practice Biphasic Sleeping

There’s a right way to adopt this sleeping pattern. The most important step is to sleep when the sun sets, at around 7 or 8 PM. Don’t postpone bedtime to 10 or 11 PM with electronics, because this is exactly what phased out biphasic sleeping to begin with. About 4 hours later comes the walking period, at around midnight. After 1 or 2 hours – around 2 AM – it’s time to go back to sleep for another 4 hours. By this point, the sun will begin to rise, and so will you.

As you can see, biphasic sleeping should be in line with the natural sunset and sunrise. Most mammals actually sleep this way! The next time you wake up at night, don’t be so hard on yourself. It might just be nature at play.

References   [ + ]

1. Ekirch, A. Roger. “Segmented sleep in preindustrial societies.” (2016): 715-716.
2. Ekirch, A. Roger. “Sleep we have lost: pre-industrial slumber in the British Isles.” The American Historical Review 106, no. 2 (2001): 343-386.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.