Is Getting Eight Hours of Sleep a Myth?
While many people worry about waking in the middle of the night preventing us from getting a full eight hours of sleep, recent studies show that a night containing eight hours of sleep may be unnatural.
Psychiatrist Thomas Wehr conducted an experiment in the early 199-0s in which a group of people were plunged into darkness for 14 hours every single day for one month.
By the fourth week, the subjects had settled into very distinct sleep patterns: they slept for four hours, then woke up for one or two hours before falling into a second four-hour sleep.
Still, the thought that a person needs eight hours of sleep continued to persist.
In 2001, historian Roger Ekirch of Virginia Tech published a paper detailing 16 years of research showing that humans sleep in to distinct pieces during the night. He also found evidence that people for several centuries recorded the same cycles. However, during the 17th century this belief stopped being recorded and was lost until recently.
"For most of evolution we slept a certain way," says sleep psychologist Gregg Jacobs. "Waking up during the night is part of normal human physiology."
In a full sleep cycle, a person goes through all the four stages of sleep, then go back down through stages three and two before entering 'dream sleep.'
Another researcher, Gregg Jacobs, says, "Over 30% of the medical problems that doctors are faced with stem directly or indirectly from sleep. But sleep has been ignored in medical training and there are very few centers where sleep is studied."
In historic accounts it was found that people used this "waking time' to meditate on their dreams.
Remember that the next time you wake in the middle of the night: think of your ancestors doing the same thin and realize it might actually be good for you.
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