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Is it true that early humans didn’t get eight hours of sleep every night?

Is it true that early humans didn't get eight hours of sleep every night?

First of all,

Human sleep requirements have long been a source of interest and controversy. According to conventional wisdom, we should strive for eight hours of sleep every night. However, historical data and studies on human sleep habits suggest that this norm hasn’t always been held throughout history. This essay will examine how human sleep habits have changed over time and reveal the myths surrounding the recommended 8 hours of sleep every night.

A Variable Past of Sleep Habits:

Humans did not always depend on a single, continuous sleep cycle during the night, despite what is commonly believed. Literature and historical narratives frequently mention segmented or biphasic sleep patterns. It was typical for individuals to split their sleep into two separate phases, separated by a period of waking.

Historian Roger Ekirch’s research indicates that before industrialization and the general availability of artificial light, individuals would go through phases of sleep called a “first sleep” and a “second sleep,” interspersed with periods of alertness. People did a variety of things during this time, such as praying, reading, or socializing, before going back to sleep in the second phase. Both non-Western and Western cultures exhibited these patterns.

Modern Lifestyles and Industrialization’s Effects:

Sleep habits have been profoundly impacted by the Industrial Revolution and current lifestyle changes. With the advent of artificial lighting, individuals were able to prolong their awake hours well into the night. For many people, the shift to a more monophasic sleep pattern—which is defined as a single, uninterrupted sleep period—became the norm.

The demands of contemporary life, together with shift work and longer work hours, have also led to a move away from the biphasic sleep patterns of the past. People started to value getting a decent night’s sleep due to the demands of social duties and productivity.

Individual Differences in Sleep Requirements:

It’s critical to understand that everyone has different needs when it comes to sleep duration. Even though 7-9 hours a night is frequently mentioned as the average suggested amount, some people may naturally need less or more sleep to perform at their best.

One’s requirements for sleep are influenced by a variety of factors, including age, health in general, genetics, and lifestyle choices. While some people can function well on six hours of sleep, others could need closer to nine. Respecting and acknowledging our unique variances in terms of sleep length and quality is crucial.

Contemporary Sleep Issues:

Numerous things in today’s world might interfere with or impair our ability to sleep. The difficulties we encounter in getting enough restorative sleep are a result of several factors, including the widespread use of blue light-emitting devices, the demands of our social and professional lives, and the rising incidence of sleep disorders.

In summary:

There is no truth to the belief that people have always slept eight hours every night. Research and historical data indicate that sleep patterns have changed throughout human history, with segmented and biphasic sleep patterns being more common in the past. Artificial light, shifting social conventions, and industrialization all contributed to the shift to monophasic sleep.

It’s also critical to understand that everyone has different demands when it comes to sleep. Variations in the amount of sleep required are a result of individual characteristics as well as external influences, including age, health, and heredity.

To promote our general well-being, we must prioritize getting enough quality sleep while we face the difficulties of today’s environment. We can improve our overall sleep health and establish better sleep hygiene by acknowledging our unique requirements and appreciating the diversity of sleep patterns.


  1. Sleep Junkie – The Full History of Human Sleep and Sleep Patterns
  2. BBC Future – The forgotten medieval habit of ‘two sleeps’
  3. Sleep Advisor – History of Sleep – How Ancient Humans Slept Before Electricity
  4. – History of sleep: what was normal?

Pradeep S

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SEO Blog Specialist Experienced Digital Marketing Analyst skilled in , SEO, SMM, Google Analytics, Search Console, Tag Manager, PPC, and market analysis. Specializing in digital marketing.

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