Sleep: Desired vs. Actual vs. Recommended

There are numerous articles about how much sleep we should get, the right temperature, what is the optimal time to go to bed, and so on. Personally, I like the idea of segmented/bimodal sleep. This consists of two slumbers. One in the early evening and the other in the early morning. In between the two periods of rest, a person can do whatever they want.

I find the concept appealing since I have experienced times when I needed to pull all-nighter to complete an assignment. Over time, I learned that my most productive times are between 3am and 5am. Anytime before or after that, I get things done through sheer will-power. Regardless of productivity, I often had to review my work multiple times because something was still wrong. In factor, the first part of my most effective hours were spent fixing the errors I made earlier.

In my ideal situation, if I could live with bimodal sleep, I would go to bed around 8pm. I would spend the waking time reading or writing because I do not have much leisure for either of those during the day. Then, its back to sleep until the morning when I need to go outside my home and be a productive human.

As much as I would like to be a segmented sleeper, it is really difficult to do. Sometimes its the people around me. Everyone is busy up until they go to sleep around 11pm and I tend to get pulled into helping or talking with them. So far, I’ve found that I either need 6 or 8 hours of sleep. If I don’t get those hours, then there is a good chance I will need caffeine or nap to get through the day. I’ve also found that if I do not wake at 5, 6, or 8am, then I crawl out of bed in a grouchy mood.

So here I was browsing through http://reddit.com/r/EverythingScience trying to stay awake in the middle of the day when I found this article, “Our ancestors probably didn’t get eight hours a night, either“.

This piece described a study on tribes living our ancestor’s lifestyle of hunting and gathering. The main purpose was to monitor their sleeping habits. The researchers guessed that the tribes would more closely follow the sleep patterns of our ancestors. In the end, they concluded that people who live near the equator do not have segmented sleep. Instead the tribes people slept for about 6 hours straight and are able to get through the day without a afternoon nap. The researchers reasoned that the accounts of having two sleeps came from people who lived further away from the equator and had longer nights, thus there was less of a need to always be asleep when it was dark.

Well, so much for further proof that we should be bimodal sleepers. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. Until then, I will continue to wonder how some people are able to rush around all day after getting less than 8 hours of sleep.

To the reader who discovered this post, how many hours of sleep do you need?

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