The concept of sleeping eight hours a night has been highly documented and referenced over the years, with roots dating all the way back to the 18th century. From scientists’ recommendations to your friend’s well-meaning advice over brunch, 8-hour slumbers have been touted as though they will serve as a miraculous cure to everything wrong with life. But a look back at the roots of the sleep trend helps shed a little more light on where the concept of a coveted 8-hour sleep comes from – and why the 8-hour slumber we think of now isn’t the 8-hour slumber people were having back in the day.
As history would have it, Welsh socialist Robert Owen was responsible for the creation of the 8-hour workday, and subsequently had a hand in the creation of the 8-hour sleep myth. His contribution to our sleep culture today rested upon a highly repeated statement, where “eight hours’ labor, eight hours’ recreation, eight hours’ rest,” was proposed to be the ideal combination to break down our 24-hour days. Owen essentially meant an equal proportioning of thirds between work, bodily health and personal time. Yet psychological research has found sleeping eight hours a night is an uncomfortable restriction on our natural biological rhythms. It essentially limits our muscle recovery time and resting brain processes, giving us too-short of a period to actually recuperate completely.
Historically, this has been proven to have strong scientific basis. Before modern day sleeping habits came into play, segmented sleep was considered the way to go for better sleep. Conventionally split into stages in Greek life, sleep was normally divided into “first sleep” and “second sleep.” Each “shift” of sleep lasted about four hours, with the interval in between serving as a time for peaceful meditation or productivity, i.e. getting work done.
Beyond history, there has also been biological basis as to why your body adjusts better to segmented sleep. In the early 1990s, psychologist Thomas Wehr deprived test subjects of light for 14 hours a day and let them sleep for as long as they wanted. He found that naturally, their sleep cycles would divide into two symmetrical periods with an episode of wakefulness in between. Not only would the naturally occurring sleep cycles help boost bodily function, but it also was also associated with higher levels of serotonin and elevated prolactin—a pituitary gland hormone that gives one a feeling of serene calm.
So, the 8-hour sleep myth is just that: a complete and total misunderstanding of what our ancestors did when it came to sleep. The real secret to a restful night, in fact, isn’t necessarily a sold eight hours of sleep – at least not consecutively. Rather, try for a steady commitment to your sleep schedule, which allows you to naturally adjust your circadian rhythms to segmented sleep. You can sleep for four hours initially like the Greeks did with “first sleep,” then experience the periods of wakefulness for productivity before undergoing your “second sleep” for another four hours. It might be difficult to implement in a normal 9-to-5 workday, but in the interest of better rest, there’s certainly no harm in trying!
When a semi-drastic tweak in your sleep schedule like segmenting your shuteye seems like a bit too much take on, get on track to better sleep with something a little bit simpler, like reBloom. A few sips of the all-natural sleep drink, and you’re sure to be snoozing in no time!