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Can You Survive on Four Hours of Sleep?

June 01, 2022

Can You Survive on Four Hours of Sleep?

Whether or not you particularly like to sleep, undoubtedly you’ve had good nights of sleep where you wake up feeling great, as well as nights when you have poor sleep quality where you wake up sluggish, drowsy, and with low energy. The effect that sleep has on our minds and bodies is something we can’t ignore; not with all of the coffee and energy drinks in the world.

Sleep scientists and experts say that most adults require 7 or more hours of sleep per night to maintain their physical and mental health and have a healthy lifestyle. But for many people, 7 or more hours is unrealistic.

For those of us that work long shifts of 12 plus hours, and have other responsibilities on top of work, there may not be enough hours in a day to sleep 7 hours. Other people may work multiple jobs, or have to care for children or family, or have too much housework. The obligations that may require hours of our time outside of work or school are too many to list. Not to mention the free time to relax, have hobbies, or socialize with friends that may prevent us from getting enough sleep.

So, if you’re wondering if you can survive on less sleep, say four hours of sleep every day, you are not alone. How much sleep we really need has been a question that many people have asked, wondered, and experimented with long before now.

In this article, we will discuss everything from why our bodies and minds need sleep, how much sleep you really need, and discuss whether you can survive and thrive on just four hours of sleep. Moreover, we will discuss why you should make sleep a priority, and suggest ways to improve your sleep (without sleeping too much).

Why Our Bodies and Minds Need Sleep

So, we know that sleep is important, but have you ever wondered why sleep is important? You may know that it allows us to rest, but there is a lot more going on in your body and your mind while you sleep that makes it an essential part of our biological system.

Although it may feel like your mind and body are resting while you sleep, your brain and body are very active. Research shows that while you sleep your body carries out biological maintenance, and removes toxins from the body. In addition, a recent study has found that during sleep cerebrospinal flood washes in and out of the brain, removing waste.

In addition, it’s important to note that scientists know they do not yet understand everything that is going on during sleep, but it is clear that is an essential part of maintaining, repairing, and removing toxins and waste from the brain. Furthermore, they know that sleep affects almost everything in our bodies. Everything from our organs, like our heart and lungs, to our immune systems and moods. However, sleep still remains somewhat of a mystery, and scientists are just beginning to understand the effects it has on our bodies and minds.

Sleep Deprivation

When we do not get enough sleep, we suffer from sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation may not be as obvious as you think, either. When people are sleep deprived for days on end, sometimes they get used to the feeling, and believe this sleep-deprived baseline to be normal. Therefore, if you have been sleep deprived for a long period of time, you may forget what it feels like to be wide-awake, alert, and have more energy, because you do not realize you are sleep deprived.

Side Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation is what you want to avoid most of all if you are considering cutting down on your sleep. Sleep deprivation can have serious impacts on your mental and physical health and well-being. Side effects of sleep deprivation include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Difficulty concentrating/lack of focus
  • Problems with memory
  • Fatigue/reduced energy levels
  • Frequent sickness/weakened immune response
  • Frequent yawning
  • Irritability
  • Moodiness
  • Changes in appetite

If you are experiencing some of these symptoms, it is likely because you are sleep deprived. As we mentioned earlier, most sleep studies cite that adults need 7 or more hours of sleep per night, or about 7 to 9 hours. However, there are some arguments that you only need four hours of sleep per day, especially if you break up your sleep times in what is known as polyphasic sleep.

Sleep Debt

Sleep debt is the idea that we need to make up for lost sleep. Sleep debt is an important concept when trying to reconcile sleep deprivation. Unlike many people believe, you cannot make up for lost sleep by sleeping more on the weekends when you have more time.

Can You Survive, or Even Thrive, on Four Hours of Sleep?

With all of the research and studies that show that most adults require at least 7 hours of sleep, there are still many people making the argument that you can function, and even improve your life, by just getting four hours of sleep. But how does this work? Is this even possible? Below we will try to answer these questions.

Polyphasic and Monophasic Sleep

Most people nowadays have a monophasic sleep cycle. That means that during the day we are awake, and do all of our sleeping at night. However, what if I told you that monophasic sleep is a relatively recent habit for humans?

The History of Biphasic and Monophasic Sleep

Researchers believe that the monphasic sleep pattern came about in the industrial era. The industrial era allowed for artificial light to be introduced into homes across the world, so that people could stay up and work, or recreate past sunset. Prior to the industrial revolution, people across the globe generally had biphasic sleep patterns.

Biphasic sleep is categorized as two separate sleep times. For example, before the industrial revolution, many people would start sleeping around 9 pm or 10 pm, and wake up around midnight. They would stay up for a few hours in the night to add wood to their fire, take care of their children, and eat. Afterwards, they would fall asleep into their second phase of sleep for the night.

Artificial light is thought to be the main factor in our transition from biphasic to monophasic sleep. Now, we can stay up late into the night relaxing, recreating, going out, or working. Also, we are rather unique compared to other animals sleep patterns, as most other animals have biphasic, or polyphasic sleep.

What’s more, there is some research that suggests that our current monophasic sleep is not natural at all for humans, and may even come with some disadvantages.

Therefore, some people have sought out polyphasic sleep as a means to sleep less overall while still remaining healthy, alert, and productive.

Polyphasic Sleep

Polyphasic sleep consists of multiple sleep phases throughout the 24-hour cycle. Polyphasic sleep consists of three or more segmented sleep phases throughout the day. Infants are a great example of polyphasic sleepers, as they sleep several times, rather than one long sleep at night like many adults.

Does Polyphasic Sleep Actually Work?

Although most sleep studies support the idea that polyphasic sleep, especially when the total sleep time is less than 7 hours a day, can have negative consequences and lead to sleep deprivation, many people still swear by the benefits of polyphasic sleep. Some people say that by only sleeping 1-3 hours at night, and a few short (about 30 minute) naps throughout the day, they feel more productive, energized, and have more time in their day to get everything they need to do done, and relax as well.

Watch this short video below to hear about someone’s experience with trying polyphasic sleep:

In the video, geniuses from history are cited as sources that support alternative sleep habits, like polyphasic sleep cycle. Apparently, this is true. For example, Nikola Tesla only slept for about two hours at night, and would take power naps during the day. Leonardo Da Vinci also followed the polyphasic sleep cycle, which consisted of 20 minute naps distributed throughout the 24 hour cycle, totaling about 5 hours of sleep.

How Much Sleep do You Really Need?

Clearly, when discussing whether or not you can thrive on shorter than 7 hours of sleep using the polyphasic sleep schedule, there are clear contradictions. Most sleep studies found that people require 7 hours of sleep, yet the sleep study we discussed earlier argued that biphasic sleep is natural. Taking all of this into account it seems that there needs to be more research into sleep and polyphasic sleep.

Furthermore, most sleep studies use monophasic sleep to measure how much sleep we need. So although we cannot prove that less than 7 hours of sleep can still be healthy with polyphasic sleep, it definitely suggests that there is something that our sleep studies have not been able to explain, or properly study yet.

Perhaps someone could thrive on four hours of sleep each day if the sleep was broken up into several segmented sections. The anecdotal evidence that suggests this is overwhelming, so while we cannot take this as irrefutable evidence, we cannot ignore it all together either.

Short Sleepers

You can’t talk about sleeping for four hours a day without discussing short sleepers. Short sleepers are people who sleep for shorter periods of time compared to other people, for example for to five hours, and do not experience the symptoms of sleep deprivation.

Of course, short sleepers are relatively rare, and more research has to be conducted to determine whether or not short sleepers are at a higher risk for health issues. However, if they do not feel any symptoms of sleep deprivation, it may suggest that they don’t need the extra sleep that many people feel they do.

Reasons to Make Sleep a Priority

If you’re wondering if you can survive on four hours of sleep, it’s probably because you want to have more hours in your day, but don’t want to sacrifice your health and mental well-being. This is because you understand to some extent how important sleep is. Sleep has a huge effect on every part of our body, and can lead to a number of long-term health problems including:

  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Obesity and Weight Gain
  • Hypertension
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea
  • Heart Disease, Coronary Heart Disease, and High Blood Pressure
  • Stroke
  • Psychosis

Therefore, getting enough sleep, and getting quality sleep, is crucial to keeping a healthy mind and body, so if you’re staying awake late into the night either binge watching Netflix, or even completing something on your to-do list, you may be better off waiting until tomorrow than suffering the negative health consequences that come with sleep loss.

How to Get Better Sleep with Eco Terra Beds

If you find yourself waking up drowsy, having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, it may be because of your mattress. If you don’t have a comfortable and supportive mattress, that can cause serious implications as far as your sleep is concerned. Not only is getting enough sleep important, but getting quality sleep is essential to feeling rested as well. Eco Terra Beds are all natural, eco-friendly mattresses that will help you to get quality, deep sleep every night. Enjoy nature’s secret for deep, comfortable sleep with Eco Terra Beds.

Takeaway

Unfortunately, most people cannot have a healthy lifestyle with only four hours of sleep, research suggests. However, personal and anecdotal evidence supporting shorter sleep by using polyphasic sleep suggests otherwise. This means that we cannot say for sure if you can thrive on four hours of sleep. Yet, if you really want to make the transition, you can always try it out for yourself. As mentioned in the video we linked to above, it may take some time to adjust, but if you stick to it, you may see positive results and more time in your day.

Lastly, we should mention that how much sleep any one person needs may be different than another. How much sleep one adult needs compared to another might be the difference of three hours. Not to mention, different age groups require more sleep than others. For example, older adults, people who are 60 years and older, require less sleep than teenagers.

Patrick Gunther

Patrick is an accomplished writer. He has been in the retail mattress space for the past 11 years, and more specifically in the natural mattress niche. He blogs on the subjects of natural mattresses, sleep, health, fitness, and green living.