Two Naps a Day: The Healthiest Way to Sleep?

Ever toss and turn in the middle of the night, never able to get a full night’s rest? Turns out that your body might just want you to be splitting up that rest!

The United States recommended amount of healthy sleep that an American should be getting per night is 7 to 9 hours. However, common belief is that that sleep should be achieved in one continuous act. Dr. Melinda Jackson, a psychologist specializing in sleep disorders at RMIT University, has evidence that proves otherwise.

Jackson has delved throughout historical accounts of sleep routines. Her result? It turns out that “split sleeping used to be the norm, and going to bed for a continuous eight hours is a modern invention”.

For instance, in preindustrial Europe, sleeping in two distinct segments was actually the norm.

Sleep was not dictated by any physiological response back then; pre-industrial Europeans slept when their obligations were fulfilled.

Interestingly, the appearance of insomnia in historical literature in the late 19th century coincides with the period where accounts of split sleep start to disappear.

When around a third of the population has trouble sleeping, including difficulties with sleep maintenance throughout the night, this research can potentially help millions of people get the rest they need!

Prevailing science today says that our bodies need one continuous sleep cycle per day in order to listen to our natural circadian rhythms. Jackson’s research, on the other hand, says otherwise.

The perceived sluggishness known as the “mid afternoon dip”, where energy levels are lowest, is actually a biological sign that the body is ready to rest.In the early 1990s, psychiatrist Thomas Wehr affirmed this by conducting a laboratory experiment in a group of people that were left in darkness for 14 hours every day instead of the typical eight hours – for a month.

According to Wehr, “It took some time for their sleep to regulate, but by the fourth week a distinct two-phase sleep pattern emerged.

They slept first for four hours, then woke for one to three hours before falling into a second four-hour sleep”.

These findings suggest that “bi-phasic” sleep is potentially could be a natural process that has a biological basis.

With continued research, psychologists hope to see whether sleeping twice in a day is really the biological standard for humans. The jury isn't quite out yet, but imagine life with two naps a day!