What is segmented sleep? Advantages and disadvantages

Getting up in the morning and after a while going back to rest is known as “segmented sleep”. How do these vigils impact health?

Last update: 09 July, 2022

Dividing rest into phases spaced a few hours apart explains what segmented sleep is. Such a resting technique may fit some current needs, but it is not new.

This is how people rested in the Middle Ages, when there was no electricity and as soon as night came they went to bed. However, hours later they woke up and carried out daily activities before going back to rest.

During the Middle Ages, staying awake for 3 or 4 hours between dreams was perhaps productive. Today, the practice is also called first and second dream either biphasic sleep.

What is segmented sleep?

The basis of segmented sleep is not to sleep in a row, but divide the night rest into 2 or more periods. When the segmentation exceeds 3 sections it is called “polyphasic”. It is a pattern that modifies the traditional one, based on resting for 6 to 8 hours in a row.

In addition to dividing rest into night blocks, it is possible to add a quota for the day.

It does not classify as a sleep disorder, but it shares characteristics with this pathology which sometimes affects daily life. Among the effects of sleep disorders, the Sleep Unit of the University Clinic of Navarra mentions daytime sleepiness, exhaustion and problems fulfilling obligations.

However, since the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have changed their routines, making more of a nightlife at home. Unwittingly, they assumed the distributed dream.

Unlike what happened in other times, when darkness immediately announced bedtime, there are aspects of modernity quite related to the adoption of biphasic sleep and not precisely because of lighting circumstances or because of silence.

Evidence of this is a study published in American Journal of Human Biologywhich found that the quality and average duration of sleep in the sample used did not depend exclusively on factors such as light or noise.

We should not confuse segmented sleep with insomnia or with naps after lunch.

Segmented sleep and its relationship with insomnia

According to the magazine Colombian Medical Certificatechronic insomnia is a pathology that encompasses complications in physical and mental health. This condition leads to sleep division for some patients.

There are those who use fragmentation and take it as an opportunity to get work done, clean and exercise, for example. It is a way to adapt the insomniac schedule to segmented sleep.

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

Advantages of segmented sleep

There are 5 phases of nocturnal sleep, starting with light rest to REM sleep. In the segmentation there is a long pause in the first 3 hours since you go to bed For certain people, it is worth as much as a deep and restorative rest.

As long as sharing sleep in blocks does not reduce the average daily rest (6 to 8 hours), it brings advantages such as those mentioned below.

Time to relax

It doesn’t matter if it’s night; use tranquility to relax without pressure work or family. 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.

greater intimacy

together with your partner, take advantage of the early morning to enjoy intimacy. If you are looking for a pregnancy, block sleep is a good excuse to increase your chances of conceiving.

hormone regulation

Prolactin increases at night and reaches its maximum concentration before the end of the sleep cycle, as outlined in a text released by the Clinical Medical Journal Las Condes.

Although conclusive evidence is lacking, it is believed that sleeping in 2 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 are aware of what you dream. You could even control them.

It is considered that sleeping in segments influences the memory of this class of dreams, as well as memorization, creativity and concentration.

Disadvantages of segmented sleep

On the other hand, biphasic sleepers could also experience the disadvantages we now discuss. Get to know them to make a conscious decision about this practice.

sleep earlier

There are those who prefer rest in this way and it does not come naturally to them. In these cases, they adapt the rhythm to the fragmentation. The drawback is that they must go to bed much earlier than normal, wasting a few hours.

Anxiety and other pathologies

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

The nights represent the moment of sleeping in the collective unconscious. With the exception of those who fulfill a job or a nightly routine.

Taking advantage of a moment of nightly awakening to exercise is one possibility. But it is also true that the circumstances are not ideal to get moving and then go back to sleep.

Altered sleep architecture

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

Complication to return to sleep

Not everyone finds it easy to resume rest in the middle of the night. In these scenarios, what matters is not to resort to intense tasks or that make the brain work a lot, so that the second round of sleep is restorative.

How to improve the quality of sleep?

Another post from the Clinical Medical Journal Las Condes highlights that the perception of good sleep is linked to parameters such as the percentage of sleep phases and its cycleslatency to reconcile rest, micro-arousals and periods of wakefulness.

If by your own free will you 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 contrary, When sleep segmentation is a problem, it is best to turn to a specialist.

The treatments tend to be behavioral and cognitive, in order to regulate the lapses, the physical activity and the diet. Similarly, exposure to natural or artificial light influences the regulation of circadian rhythms and the anxious response to wakefulness.

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