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Breaking Your Sleep Into Two ‘Shifts’ Could Increase Productivity

Humans haven’t always slept in one solid 8-hour session. It’s actually quite a recent behaviour.

Breaking your sleep into two shifts, known as ‘dorveille sleep’, could be more productive, according to sleep experts. 

The shift thought is now new, with references to segmented sleep being found in the writing of Charles Dickens and older medical record.   

Sleeping a solid 8-hours isn’t the way humans have always slept. It’s supposedly a more recent phenomenon in our history. People would be free to spend the time between sleep shifts; however, they lied, from having sex to enjoying hobbies, says historian Roger Ekirch in 2001.   

Sleep expert James Wilson says being productive benefits from adopting this sleep style. ‘Individuals do report that they have found that it has made them more productive and calmer throughout day,’ he says, ‘particularly if the segmented sleep fits with the rest of their life’s schedule.’  

He adds: ‘Most people seem to target about four hours in each session.  

‘This generally gives you most of your deep sleep and some of your REM sleep, the sleep that is important to physical and mental health, so it feels like a good minimum amount to aim for in the initial segment.’  

So how long should you be awake between sleep periods? Apparently, one to two hours does the trick. However, this can be customised to the individual.   

James warns, though: ‘In recent years, segmented sleep has become synonymous with grind culture – seen as a way to get more from your day, often whilst getting less sleep.’