Second sleep: a period of wakefulness in the middle of the night

I just had dinner with my friend Emily Hurson, a talented actor, singer and all-round hoopy frood. When I asked her about her longtime struggle with insomnia, she mentioned that her life was much better since she embraced second sleep, a period of wakefulness in the middle of the night. According to its proponents, this sleep pattern is the one that humans naturally fall into when they don't have electric lighting, and was common until a few hundred years ago. I've been reading up on it this morning and I'm intrigued. Emily sez, "I've embraced that not getting 8 hours of sleep in a row is okay. When I wake up in the night, sometimes for a few hours, I don't get frustrated or worried about a lack of sleep." Have any of you tried it? Discuss it in the comments.

See also: The myth of the 8-hour sleep

Discuss

96 Responses to “Second sleep: a period of wakefulness in the middle of the night”

  1. The story of my life. Waking up in the middle of the night for an hour or two doesn’t match eight straight hours as a purging experience, but it doesn’t ruin my days, either. What I find really doesn’t work is just spending an hour or two flat on my back wondering why I can’t go back to sleep–something about that causes me to wake up every hour or so for the second half, and feel awful the next day.

  2. Funk Daddy says:

    I’ve suggested this to my SO who has trouble falling and staying asleep. Not so much to address that but to address the worry experienced over sleep as a result. The way I see it trying to sleep is anathema to sleep itself, stressing over lack of sleep compounds the condition being stressed over and puts good sleep further out of reach. So a period of wakefulness (or sleeplessness) should be approached without chagrin for a fighting chance.

    But I have never studied sleep issues except trying to help my partner because I’m one of the lucky ones that can sleep anytime anywhere and get by on most any amount. 8 hours is too much sleep for me unless I have been particularly active physically and mentally.

    Good luck addressing your sleep trouble if you have any, it’s a hell I don’t know but by observing it torture my loved one.

    • ldobe says:

      I’ve always had terrible insomnia, with my problem being that I can’t fall asleep quickly at night, but can during the day (almost narcoleptically).  I had a sleep study done, and the doctor said to set a non-negotiable waking-time.  Always get up then.  If you wake up earlier, stay in bed until then.  The second part was to go to bed when I’m tired.  If I’m not tired, I don’t go to bed, even if it’s 2:30AM but I’m not tired, and my set get-up time is 7:30AM.  It’s, I think, a brain training thing.  If you get up at exactly the same time, every single day, weekdays, weekends, holidays, on vacation, no exceptions, your brain starts adapting to the solid, non negotiable activity, allowing a sleep cycle to be built around it.

      Since I started the sleep discipline regime last summer, I have actually been feeling a lot better, and discovered that I usually get tired around 1AM.  So I’m getting a little under 6 hours of sleep, since it still takes a long time for me to fall asleep.  But I think the sleep discipline has been good for me.

      I don’t recommend trying anything before consulting a somnologist, and have a sleep study if that’s what they recommend.  Just relating my personal experience.

      • digi_owl says:

        Would not work on this guy. When i sleep, i can probably sleep thru dynamite going off under my bed. This means that no amount of alarm clock or similar will be able to get me out of bed at the same time each day.

    • LowerHater says:

      Recently I got a tablet and its been the cure. Seriously.

      I keep it on my bedside, loaded with a book I’m into. I set it so that the book reader displays white text with a black background. So its minimaly bright, but easy to read. I can turn it on and read without getting out of bed or otherwise waking my partner. Awesome

      So I wake up, do some easy reading in bed without turning on any lights and within 20 minutes; get drowsy and go right back to sleep.

      Cured!

  3. I didn’t know it had a name or was a “thing”….just been doing it this way for about the past 20 years or so. Also an absolutely awesome way to induce lucid dreaming, just lie very still on your way back into that 2nd sleep and force yourself to stay “awake” as your body falls back into sleep. Practice this enough times and lucidity isin’t too far off.

    • Ipo says:

      So that is how you got your name. 

      I never have dreams or don’t remember them.
      Very rarely I have nightmares, but I don’t think they are just bad dreams, they are a different thing.

  4. Rider says:

    Pretty much every problem I’ve had in my life has been a result of my inability to adjust my sleep pattern to the rest of the world.  From birth my sleep patterns have never been “normal”.

    • Ender Wiggin says:

      same, i’ve been nocturnal since i was a kid.  getting to sleep before like 4 in the morning is a struggle, always.   it’s a real bitch now that the kids need to get to the bus at 730 in the morning.

  5. allenmcbride says:

    Do any experts disagree with Roger Ekirch’s theory that we all used to sleep this way? I keep coming across articles in the popular press about it, and I know he’s a real historian and all… but it seems like a little skepticism would greet the hypothesis that almost all of humanity collectively forgot, in just a century or two, about a fundamental part of our daily lives. Similarly, it seems like the literary references, rather than requiring a professional historian to catalog, would be everywhere, inescapable. But maybe there’s consensus among experts that the evidence really is compelling?

    • IanM_66 says:

      I haven’t been able to find disputing arguments. By my understanding, the references are fairly ubiquitous, actually, in pre-industrial literature. The reason, so the argument goes, that we as a society forgot about second sleep has to do with the altered work schedules and styles that the industrial revolution brought about, which led to the stigmatization of prolonged patterns of sleeping and required workers to pack their sleep into an efficient, single time period. You can find medical literature and social commentary from the early industrial period that poo-poos people who engage in second sleep. Artificial light, of course, made a big difference to people’s schedules.

      For so long, historical study focused on the big stuff – kings, wars, etc. – that there actually seem to be a lot of things about the everyday lives of everyday people not so long ago that we know surprisingly little about. It’s all pretty interesting, IMO.

      • Wreckrob8 says:

        Absolutely. It is not only the influence of electric lighting on schedules but also the (physiological?) effect of electric lighting compared to natural gas or candle light, I would have thought. A few hours exposure to one 100 watt bulb (120 candelas or 120 candles worth of light) isn’t necessarily conducive to restful sleep.

      • fletcher_katherine says:

        I’m with you, IanM_66.  But this whole comment thread is perhaps being written by people without kids?  The “one hour wide awake in the middle of the night” pattern  will be soul-destroyingly familiar for anyone with a baby.  Even “easy” babies sometimes refuse to go back to sleep. Presumably this is fairly constant throughout human history.  Even as they get older, they still crawl into bed with you, with cold feet or crying from a nightmare at 2am.

        But that doesn’t mean I would sleep that way for preference!  I’m much more a sleep-straight-through person, and pretty good at sleeping “on time.”  But I do find that the more I feel I need to get back to sleep (e.g. catching an early train in the morning), the harder it is to fall back asleep.  It must be murder for people who stress about their insomnia.

    • CH says:

      I’m sure there are lots of people who did this, or still do that… but finding lots of mentions of this in diaries doesn’t mean that this is something that was common or that it is what people do “naturally”. There are still people living without electricity, one would think some anthropologist could go check it out.

      • naam says:

        As I understand it, the fact that it is mentioned so casually is what makes it believably common in the past. It’s not like these diaries and manuscripts are going on in length about the second sleep phenomena, it’s mentioned here and there as common knowledge – like prescriptions for using medicinal herbs “preferably just before second sleep”, and references like that.

        But that’s just how it got told to me, I didn’t do any research.

    • ryuthrowsstuff says:

      I haven’t seen much in regards to counter arguments based on the historical record. But I’ve seen a number of articles and studies that claim even today most people don’t sleep through the night in one single 8 hour block. Most people wake up at least once. Being a life long insomniac I’ve been told numerous times by doctors and sleep specialists that a big factor in most insomnia is the stress in getting to/back to sleep. Apparently the assumption that you shouldn’t be waking up all is a huge contributor to whether you can get back to sleep or not. Its fairly usual to wake up before going back to sleep. This situation is occasionally used to back up Ekrich, but I have no clue how rigorous any of it is. 

  6. There really isn’t a one-size-fits-all sleep schedule that works for everybody.  Not everybody needs the same number of hours of sleep every night.  The 9 to 5 work schedule that most people seem to follow puts pressure on us to try to get 8 hours of sleep every night and makes us freak out when it doesn’t happen.

  7. David says:

    Head Trip by Jeff Warren has a great chapter on this

  8. janusnode says:

    Totally worked for me. I started waking up in the middle of the night a few years ago and used to fret about it, until last year when my mother told me about second sleep. I embraced the idea, and it worked for me: now I don’t mind waking up in the middle of the night for a while and I don’t just lie in bed fretting about how terrible it is not to be sleeping. I don’t really get any more sleep than I ever did, but it is helpful just to have come to peaceful terms with my sleep pattern…plus I have an hour or so to do stuff in the middle of the night.

  9. I’m surprised anyone survived the Stone Age sleeping eight straight hours. 

    I suppose have a community where people could take turns keeping watch at night became very important very quickly.

  10. mephyle says:

    If it’s a period of wakefulness, why is it called “second sleep”? Wouldn’t it make more sense that “second sleep” is the second time you fall asleep, after that middle-of-the-night period of wakefulness?

  11. IanM_66 says:

    Hold on  - Second sleep is not a period of wakefulness. It FOLLOWS the period of wakefulness that many people experience. So there is First Sleep, and Second Sleep, during both of which you are, um, asleep, and a wakeful period of about an hour in between. I don’t know if the in-between period has a name. Overall, the phenomenon is known as segmented sleep. Just clarifying.

    As to the question, yes, I often experience this, and it used to cause me concern because I would be worried about why I was awake in the middle of the night, whether I would be able to fall back asleep, and whether I’d be tired the next day. Since I found out that humans may have been sleeping this way for most of history, the stress is reduced and overall I get better rest and get more reading done at night (though that’s about all I manage to do, groggily. Some people seem to be able to get actual work done.)

  12. mcaron00 says:

    You know what induces this sleep patent very effectively? Going to bed tipsy. Not blind-drunk but perceptibly Inhibriated.
    I’m willing to make a wild guess out there, with little data to back it up: Until not that long ago, alcohol was safer to drink than water or even most juices. Also, for many, it was one of the only sources of excitement in a life full of hardships. In short: people got to bed drunk pretty damn’ often. Hence the sleep pattern.

    • ardensky says:

      Having spent a couple of months in China this summer, I would like to add that alcohol is *still* safer to drink than water in some parts of the world.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Yeah. One of the theories is that it’s a sugar kick-back. If I go to bed inebriated, I’m going to wake up three or four hours later and be wide awake for a while.

    • volcomp says:

      Yup, I’m the same way.  1 or 2 beers and I’m up for an hour or more.  Glad I’m not the only one!

      • niktemadur says:

        1 or 2 beers and I’m up for an hour or more

        You ain’t doing it right then, as the solution is obvious:  more beer, the best way out is always through.

    • teapot says:

      Challenge: Blaze one at 2am and try to stay awake.

      IMO sleep assistance is the largest potential benefit to medical marijuana.

    • Absolutely agree. Blind drunk and up to the wee hours will have me still drooling and passed out long after dawn, but “a few” will not only put me sound asleep early, but also wake me up to pee within a few hours.

  13. YelloKat5000 says:

    I work as a full time illustrator and I have done that off and on for years, It is astounding the amount of work I get done between 3 am and 6am. I suppose I have never been disturbed by it because I still get enough sleep and I am lucky to set my own schedule. (Also, if this means an occasional afternoon nap, I do not fight that either.)

  14. ardensky says:

    I’d like to see Maggie’s take on this concept.

  15. Craig Kaplan says:

    I recommend the two-part radio program “While You Were Out” from CBC’s Ideas in Canada.  It contains a good discussion of The Watch and the Second Sleep.  There appears to be a reasonably authoritative version of the program at http://www.jeffwarren.org/category/radio/.

  16. Ushao says:

    I’ve never been able to try this because, well, I’m like the dead when I sleep until it’s time to get up. Seriously. My wife wakes up in the middle of the night and has a second sleep but me? I’ve slept through raging southwestern thunderstorms with no problems for 6-10 hours. I suppose it might be due to living most of my early life at the takeoff end of Kelly AFB (now Port San Antonio) with C-5 Galaxies and C-17s flying over daily (and nightly).

    • Missy Pants says:

      Me too. I slept through a hurricane in a trailer in a trailer park in Florida once. I didn’t grow up in under an airstrip though, just always been a dead sleeper. I always have to warn people that I take no responsibility for sleeping-mes’ actions, cuz bitch will cut you if you bother her. I used to have to put my alarm in other rooms so that I would have to walk to it to turn it off and I would routinely wake up standing up holding the alarm in my hands. Sleeping me could get there but could not figure out how to turn it off. 

      Tell me, do you get overcome with waves of sleepiness? There are times when I *have* to sleep, no putting it off, sleep NOW.I often wonder what it would be like to take Ambien. Pretty sure I could be a manchurian candidate on that shit. 

      • Ushao says:

        I’ve never really been hit with an “absolutely must sleep” situation unless it’s been a while since I slept. I do, however, get very lethargic and muddled if I haven’t been active enough that day. Like today for example. I spent all day in the office with not a thing to do except screw around online and by the end of the day I really needed a nap. I can push past it but I spend the rest of the day in a daze because it’s like my brain shut down due to the lack of meaningful activity.

  17. Paul says:

    Ann Althouse has written about this several times since 2006:  http://althouse.blogspot.com/search?q=second+sleep

    • niktemadur says:

      Too bad I won’t click that link, I refuse to give out web hits to blatant Sarah Palin cheerleaders.  That woman left her critical faculties at the door as she picked up her rah-rah right-wing crayons.
      In that spirit, I’ve got Murdoch Block installed on Firefox and Chrome, and I haven’t seen The Drudge Report in over ten years, even out of morbid curiosity.

  18. Nicky G says:

    I’ve been dealing with pretty hardcore insomnia for at least 6 or 7 years now. Not drinking alcohol has helped, but there are still some nights I only get an hour or two of sleep. Waking up in the middle of the night is a regular occurrence for me, and I no longer “fight” being awake, and instead do some reading or something. Usually I fall back asleep after a couple of hours. I certainly wish I got more regular sleep than I do, but coming to terms with waking up in the middle of the night has certainly made things better for me. I’m glad you’ve brought some awareness to this by posting this piece, because insomnia is a very, very nasty situation, and anything that can bring comfort to an insomniac is a very good thing. Unless you’ve experienced prolonged, regular, hardcore insomnia, you have no idea at all how unpleasant it is.

    • ldobe says:

      A film descends over the world, as the sleep deprived mind begins losing track of the difference between imagination and reality.  Things haunt you from the edges of your peripheral vision, always scratching at the edge of your perception.  You begin feeling paranoid, and resentful, like the noises outside the room are being made on purpose to keep you awake.  The ticking clocks won’t keep a constant rhythm, dancing out of your mental metronome’s grasp on the world’s predictability.  You become a reaction.  Angry and vengeful and thinking only in the sense that mental images exist.  The words meant to describe the things you want to express have been fried away, like a drop of water on the surface of a hot oilslick.

      At least that’s what it’s like for me.

    • ldobe says:

      I hope you sleep better.

    • ryuthrowsstuff says:

      What sort of mattress do you sleep on? I’ve had various sleep weirdnesses since childhood. Insomnia for the most part, but also night terrors, recurring dreams, sleep paralysis, slight parasomnias, exploding head, a bunch I probably couldn’t identify by name. A few years ago I switched to a futon pad from a spring mattress for unrelated reasons. A lot of my sleep disturbances quieted down not long after, and the Insomnia doesn’t seem quite as bad. Its probably coincidental, but might be worth a shot.

  19. hotelreviews says:

    I used to have insomnia where I would just lie in bed awake and wouldn’t even realize I was doing it… and I’d be soooo tired the next day.  I changed my diet and now if I wake up I can get back to sleep, and I’ve found I really don’t need 8 hours anymore.  It’s still hard waking up, but once I get going I’m not tired throughout the day.

  20. awjt says:

    I do it regularly.  The problem is EFFEN WORK in the morning…  otherwise, I would sleep til 10.

    Oh and yes: diet is EVERYTHING. For me: No dessert and limit the alcohol, and eat nothing after 7pm. Then I can get a good night’s rest, usually about 7 hours. 8 or 9 is fine, if I’m really tired. 6 isn’t the end of the world. 5 isn’t either. 4 sucks. 3 is unconscionable. 2 isn’t really sleeping. 1 is like second-hand smoke.

    • awjt says:

      Guess what I did last night after reading this?  I went out and had 2 beers and hot wings.  Guess how much sleep I got?  4 frickin hours.  I am exHAUSted.

  21. Scott Rubin says:

    I really want to do this second sleep. The problem is that it means I have to go to bed early enough that I get a few hours before the first wake up time. Instead, like I imagine most people here, I stay up posting comments like this on the Internet. Then I only do sleep number 2.

  22. rattypilgrim says:

    As an insomniac from the age of 6 and, as an adult  person owned by cats, finally, after the demise of the last not-so-sweet kitty, I am waking only once or twice a night and only for a few minutes (I think). Part of me always thought the 8 hour rule was a societal concept, nevertheless I can say waking several times a night (thanks, cats) compared to a nightly melatonin and the afore mentioned few and brief wakies is definitely a happy improvement. That said, does anyone know any tricks or formulas to falling asleep after waking in the middle of the night?

  23. BarBarSeven says:

    Hmmm… This is not as simple as it seems.  I used to think the concept of getting 3-4 hours of sleep, waking, then getting another 3-4 hours was not weird & normal based on age, but now I am fairly convinced that—at least in my case—it’s connected to diet, exercise & digestion.

    Basically, the less carbs I eat, the less chance I have of waking up in the middle of the night. What I understand this to be is sugar being released by the starches kicking me back awake.

    As far as digestion goes, my fiber intake was pretty sad a few years back.  So irregular was being regular for me.  Getting more fiber has evened out sleep as well.

    And finally, I discovered as refreshing it can be to come home after 8 hours of work & collapse into a nap for 1-2 hours, that really screws me up for the rest of the night.  I feel decent when I wake up at 7:00pm or 8:00pm, but when I get to “real sleep” later on, I wake up and feel almost hung over.  If I force myself to avoid that 1-2 hour nap and then just sleep at a normal hour for the night, I feel tons better the next days.

    Genuinely think it’s a “to each their own” thing & diet, age & overall health play into this.

  24. Angryjim says:

    how many of you people are drinking coffee in the evening? Cuz I thought I was having panic attacks and couldnt sleep. Then I realized, duh: caffeine. Got that under control. Now I’ll sleep 10 hours in a row if you let me.

  25. knoxblox says:

    I got into the groove of second sleep a few years ago when I was suffering from nasal polyps that packed my sinuses and forced me to breathe through my mouth. I’d wake up in the middle of the night dehydrated and have to drink water and sit awake for a while before going back to sleep.

    When the polyps were removed, I slept like a log for a couple of weeks. However, the “second sleep” pattern crept back into my nights, and I haven’t had an uninterrupted night’s sleep for a while now.

    I don’t really mind it much, as I am trying to paint for a living. I just work my schedule around my sleep patterns, and sometimes use my waking hours in the middle of the night to go and paint. If not, I surf the internet or read a book.

  26. Neuron says:

    There was an article a few years ago (I’m pretty sure in NYT or NPR although I can’t find it) stating that the idea of sleeping through the night is a notion peculiar to recent times and to the United States.

    Here are a couple of more recent articles, perhaps with the same content:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16964783

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/feb/24/sleep-twice-a-night-anxiety

  27. novium says:

    I once ended up on a really weird schedule (thanks to jet lag) where I would sleep from 2am-6am and then again from 4pm – 8pm. And I felt great, woke up feeling refreshed and never tired. The caveat was that when the clock would hit 2am or 4pm, I could not stay awake for love or money. It was lights out, no ifs ands or buts, and I slept like the dead. I even slept through the weekly fire alarm test. It was actually kind of awesome. I eventually was forced to break it because I had exams coming up and the idea of falling asleep halfway through a 3 hour exam was not worth contemplating.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Polyphasic sleep: You have to stick to it without exception or you end up having to start over working into your cycle.

      • novium says:

        That’s interesting. Though I’m seriously skeptical about the cutting out sleep thing. I was at least getting the full eight hours, and I know from experience that usually doing something like that weird sleep schedule I had- the 4 and 4 (or as more frequently happens in ordinary life for me, 6 hours and a couple hour nap later) leaves me feeling tired all the time. But I do think that people require different amounts of sleep. My dad used to work for a guy who made his first couple fortunes partially because he thrived on four hours of sleep and used it to put in extra (billable) hours. 

  28. How would one go about inducing this sleep pattern if it didn’t come naturally? An alarm clock seems counterproductive (especially for the partner) and I don’t want to start drinking more as some suggest further up. Thoughts?

  29. rocketpjs says:

    I have a 2 year old.  Second sleep, third sleep, fourth sleep, then the 7 year old wakes up and wants something. I’m just happy to be horizontal.

  30. Just_Ok says:

    No one has mentioned siestas yet. Or Edison.

  31. gd23 says:

    As parent of young kids, getting woken in the middle of the night is fairly regular, and I have found myself switching to the two blocks of sleep pattern. I find that if I actually go to bed early (7-8pm) then the waking in the middle doesn’t leave me any more tired the next day, despite being up at sparrow fart.

    But, what I would give for a night of uninterrupted sleep. The unexpected sudden waking is the killer (probably frequently at the wrong point in a sleep cycle)

  32. bcsizemo says:

    I feel bad for people with sleep problems.  My head hits the pillow a minute later I’m out.  If you don’t interrupt me I’ll sleep till at least 8 hours, if not closer to 9 or 10.  I’ve always been that way, and hope I stay that way.

  33. Fred Cairns says:

    When I was a student one of the Sociology studies I came across was factory works in the north of England who would work an eight-hour shift, come home for a meal and then go out dancing *all* *night*, return home at 4.00 am, get two hours sleep and breakfast, and work another eight hour shift. This was the lifestyle: they did this everyday. They key seemed to be the physical exercise and the comparatively undemanding factory work. 
    I’m not advising anyone to do this. I just present this as an example of one possible sleep pattern. 

  34. beaker says:

    I practice second sleep most nights.  My minor sleep problem is that my biological clock is not exactly 24 hrs.  It creeps forward a bit each night.  Second sleep corrects this and allows me to attain a regular rhythm.  However, having that awake hour in the middle of the night can make it difficult to get to work early (after sleep #2).  

    I agree about the lucid dreaming and stress reduction. When I awake from the first sleep, I am often stressed by life events, and the awake hour helps me work through my problems.  This feeling may be due to alcohol rebound, since I have a couple of beers with dinner.  When I go back for second sleep, I often experience lucid dreams–and awake un-stressed, happy, and ready to begin the day. 

  35. MarthoLo says:

    I read a nytimes article on second sleep a few months ago and it did indeed change my life.

    I usually wake up each night at around 3 or 4 and now, instead of lying there hoping to fall asleep again, I usually pick up my iPhone and read, play a game, catch up on email or whatever.

    After about an hour or so I usually feel very tired and can fall asleep no problem.

    I also stopped using shampoo more than 6 months ago. But that’s a different story.

  36. mkanoap says:

    I worked a couple of summers doing track repair on the Alaskan rail road.  At first out of exhaustion, I learned to relish a split sleep schedule.  When we first got off work I would go to my room in a converted box car and immediately crash my dusty self on top of my sleeping bag, pausing only to remove my boots and coveralls.  Around 4 hours later all the other guys would return from their after work carousing and the noise of them stumbling in would wake me up.  I would get up, shower, fix dinner and read, do laundry, explore the surrounding wilderness, etc. for five or six hours.   Then I would go back to bed, now cozily inside the sleeping bag and sleep comfortably for another four hours until it was time to go back to work.

    It was awesome.

  37. Reg Ulon says:

    I think it’s missing the point to say “Have any of you tried it?”
    It’s not something that you try, it tries you.  It’s not like being awakened in the middle of your sleep by a baby and then staying awake because the baby is.  It’s waking up as you would after a full night’s sleep, feeling ready for the day, except it’s still the middle of the night, and you know you’ll be tired again in an hour or two.  So you get up and do something (that’s usually when I read BoingBoing).  Then when you go back to sleep you have a great sleep…unless you have to wake up at a set time for work or school.  Then it feels like you didn’t get any sleep at all that night.  That’s my experience, anyway.
    It helps to know the history of it, and that it’s ‘natural’, but unless you can change your life schedule to accommodate it it can be very hard on your health, both mental and physical, if the conflict between segmented sleep and work schedule persists.

  38. dv8or70 says:

    Last night was a rarity for me. I woke at 12:30am and 2:30am. Yet I was able to fall back to sleep fairly quickly and complete a full 8.5 hours. I usually fall asleep early in the evening and get my hardest sleep during this time. I wake, typically, between 4:30 and 5am. So, when I wake around 2:30 or 3:30 in the morning, it’s during my period of light sleep and often times I am prone to just not falling back to sleep again. Embracing the period of wakefulness has helped. If I wake between midnight and 2:30 and feel wide awake, then I’ll get up and read for an hour or two. Getting back into bed after that usually allows me to fall back to a peaceful sleep. Even if it’s just an hour or so, it helps and I feel more peaceful in the morning.

  39. privatedick says:

    I’ve started falling asleep at 10 or 11 and waking up at 2, getting ready for bed then, and sleeping from 3 until 6 or 6:30. In fact, I wake up at 5:45 like clockwork but I take that extra sleep without any problems. I used to go to bed at 1:30 and sleep straight through. But since I adapted to the two-stage sleep I’m never sleepy at midday anymore unless I drink alcohol.

  40. Alan Wexelblat says:

    Like many other commenters I would do this were it not for having a more or less traditional 9-5 work schedule. I seem to sleep in about one 6 hour chunk, then be awake for a bit. On non-work days I happily supplement with a 2-hour nap or ‘second sleep’ about 3 hours after I first wake up.

  41. LowerHater says:

    I tend to wake up in the middle of the night and its always been a pain to get back to sleep.

    My big issue is usually, once middle of the night awake. I either lay there and simmer. Or I get up, turn on a light and do some reading or such. Either way, soon I’m wide awake.

    Recently I got a tablet and its been the cure. Seriously. I keep it on my bedside, loaded with a book I’m into. I set it so that the book reader displays white text with a black background. So its minimaly bright, but easy to read.

    So I wake up, do some easy reading in bed without turning on any lights and within 20 minutes; get drowsy and go right back to sleep.

    Cured!

  42. robdobbs says:

    http://www.headtrip.ca/

    In this book he suggests that you don’t turn on the lights when this happens as it begins a cascade of chemicals in your brain that start the real awakening process. 

  43. deckard70 says:

    This period of wakefulness in between sleeps is when computer people download another segment of a large multi-segmented file from the free file lockers. It’s the only way to avoid paying that $10 fee.

  44. Jerril says:

    Only happens if I’m sick (or my husband’s sick) and I’m woken up in the middle of the night by it. And then I have to pee because hey, first thing I do when I wake up.

    The next morning, I feel like crap, even if I’m free-sleeping as late as I want.

    I’m dubious about this being some sort of universal human experience, along with “8 hours”. I need 10 hours, no interruptions, 12+ if I’m sick or wake up in the night. Otherwise it’s sleep-wake disorders like hypnogogic hallucinations and sleep paralysis and sleep walking; at my worst I can have my “self” wake up after the sleep paralysis has started wearing off but before it’s actually gone, and worse have my “self” still be sleepy so I don’t notice. A recipe for getting out of bed and walking straight into the wall, tripping over the toilet, or falling down the stairs.

  45. Antinous / Moderator says:

    I don’t normally have insomnia, but I do wake often in the night, usually at least once to pee, and then other times just to adjust my position. Well, that’s probably related to my freakin aching body.

    I got, literally, six months between getting sufficiently past the PTSD to sleep through the night, to having my hips and shoulders reach a level of instability due to Ehlers-Danlos that I kept waking up every 90 minutes. Fortunately, an adjustment of my Vicodin dose sorted it out.

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