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Sleep: Do You Really Need Eight Hours?

March 1, 2012

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You try to get to bed at a reasonable hour—most nights, you even turn out the lights before 11pm. But then, just a few hours later, you’re wide awake and watching the numbers on your alarm clock change from 3am to 4am to 5am...

Many of us have stressed out about insomnia, but could it be a part of our normal sleep cycle?

According to a recent article from the BBC, historical and scientific evidence shows that eight hours of straight sleep might be unnatural.

A few centuries ago, it was fairly common for people to have two rest periods of about four hours each. Historical accounts show that in between these segmented sleep blocks, our ancestors enjoyed various activities--meditation, prayer, writing, conversation, or even having sex.

What shifted our sleep habits? It seems that modern life – and specifically our focus on productivity and efficiency, the adaptation of electric lighting, and the rise in coffee houses – changed the way that we rest. By the 1920s, the notion of two sleeps disappeared, and eight hours of solid sleep has become the norm.

If you regularly experience sleep interruption or insomnia, how do you train yourself to get your solid eight hours of beauty rest? In recognition of National Sleep Awareness week (March 5-12), here’s what some of Integrative Nutrition’s experts suggest:

  • Dr. John Douillard recommends slowing down before bed – turn off electronics, read a dull book, and allow your body to prepare for sleep.
  • Dr. Andrew Weil is in favor of using relaxing breathing patterns to slow down overstimulated minds.
  • Dr. Mark Hyman notes that you should create rituals around your sleep – go to bed at the same time every night, make your bedroom comfortable, cool, and dark enough, and only use it for sleep and sex.

What do you do to help yourself sleep better?