What is Segmented Sleep? Advantages and Disadvantages

Getting up in the early morning and then going back to sleep is known as "segmented sleep". How does this affect your health? Learn all about it here.
What is Segmented Sleep? Advantages and Disadvantages

Last update: 18 July, 2022

Dividing rest into phases spaced a few hours apart is what’s known as segmented sleep. It’s possible that this rest technique may be adapted to some current needs, but it’s not new.

This is how people rested in the Middle Ages when there was no electricity. As soon as night fell, they went to bed. However, hours later, they would wake up and carry out some daily activities before going back to rest.

During the Middle Ages, staying awake for 3 or 4 hours between periods of sleep may have been productive. Nowadays, the practice is also called first and second sleep or biphasic sleep.

What does segmented sleep consist of?

The basis of segmented sleep is not to sleep all at once, but to divide youre night’s rest into 2 or more periods. When the segmentation exceeds 3 sections, it’s called “polyphasic sleep”. This is a pattern that modifies the traditional one, based on resting for 6 to 8 consecutive hours.

In addition to sectioning your rest in night blocks, it’s possible to add a daytime quota.

This is not classified as a sleep disorder, but it shares characteristics with a condition that sometimes has repercussions on a person’s daily life. Among the effects of sleep disorders, the Sleep Unit of the Clínica Universidad de Navarra mentions daytime sleepiness, exhaustion, and problems in fulfilling obligations.

However, since the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have modified their routines and have been living more of their nightlife at home. Unwittingly, they have adopted biphasic sleep.

Unlike what happened in the past, when darkness immediately announced bedtime, there are aspects of modernity that are closely linked to the adoption of biphasic sleep and not precisely due to circumstances of illumination or silence.

Testimony to this is a study published in the American Journal of Human Biology, which proved that the quality and average duration of sleep in the sample used did not depend exclusively on factors such as light or noise.

Insomnio no es sueño segmentado.
We shouldn’t confuse segmented sleep with insomnia nor with naps after lunch.

Segmented sleep and its relationship with insomnia

According to the journal Acta Médica Colombiana, chronic insomnia is a disease that includes complications in physical and mental health. This condition derives from the division of sleep for some patients.

There are those who make use of fragmentation and take it as an opportunity to advance work, clean, and exercise, for example. It’s a way to adapt the insomniac schedule to segmented sleep.

On this point, several physicians agree that practicing biphasic sleep can help patients relieve anxiety and return to sleep. This is explained in an article in Harper’s Magazine.

We think you may also enjoy reading this article: Why Do Our Hands Fall Asleep While We Sleep?

The advantages of segmented sleep

There are 5 phases of nocturnal sleep, starting with light rest up to REM sleep. In segmentation, there’s a long pause after the first three hours after going to bed. For some people, it’s worth as much as a deep and restful rest.

As long as sharing sleep in blocks doesn’t reduce a person’s average daily rest (6 to 8 hours), it has advantages such as those mentioned below.

Time to relax

It doesn’t matter if it’s at night; use the quiet to relax without work or family pressure. You can meditate, write, do yoga, or awaken the muse of art and writing. Take this time to plan what you will do for the day.

More intimacy

Together with your partner, you can take advantage of the early morning to enjoy intimacy. If you’re looking for a pregnancy, sleeping for blocks is a good excuse to increase your chances of conceiving.

Hormonal regulation

Prolactin increases at night and reaches its maximum concentration before the end of the sleep cycle, according to a text published by the Revista Médica Clínica Las Condes.

Although conclusive evidence is lacking, it’s believed that sleeping in two shifts regulates the production of this hormone due to the levels detected in the first hours of the day.

More lucid dreams

Lucid dreams are those in which you’re aware of what you are dreaming. You may even be able to control them.

It’s believed that sleeping in segments influences the recall of these kinds of dreams, as well as memorization, creativity, and concentration.

The disadvantages of segmented sleep

On the other hand, those who have biphasic sleep may also experience the disadvantages we’ll now discuss. Get to know them to make a conscious decision about this practice.

Got to sleep earlier

There are those who prefer to rest in this way and it doesn’t come naturally to them. In these cases, they adapt the rhythm to fragmentation. The disadvantage is that they have to go to bed much earlier than usual, thus wasting some useful hours.

It could lead to anxiety and other conditions

Staying awake while others sleep could cause anxiety. It is usually understood as a matter of habit, since it’s common to benefit from daylight for any task or job.

Nights represent the time to sleep in the collective unconscious, with the exception of those who have a job or a nighttime routine.

Ejercicio físico de noche.
Taking advantage of a moment of nighttime awakening to exercise is a possibility. However, it’s also true that the circumstances aren’t ideal for getting into movement and then going back to sleep.

Altering the architecture of sleep

When the architecture of sleep is disrupted in any of its phases, there may not be adequate rest. This generates disorders and diseases.

Difficultly resuming sleep

Not everyone finds it easy to go back to sleep in the middle of the night. In these scenarios, what’s important is not to resort to intense tasks or tasks that put a lot of work on the brain, so that the second round of sleep is restorative.

Like this article? You may also like to read: Improve Your Sleep Quality with these Healthy Bedtime Habits

How to improve the quality of your sleep

Another publication of the Revista Médica Clínica Las Condes highlights that the perception of good sleep is linked to parameters such as the percentage of sleep phases and their cycles, the time it takes to fall asleep, micro-awakenings, and periods of wakefulness.

If you willingly assimilate this way of sleeping with the intention of making the most of the night, introduce it little by little into your habits. On the other hand, when the segmentation of sleep is a problem, it’s advisable to consult a specialist.

Treatments tend to be behavioral and cognitive, in order to regulate the lapses, physical activity, and food. Similarly, exposure to natural or artificial light can help regulate your circadian rhythms and your anxious response to wakefulness.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.