Could We Get by on Five Hours Less Sleep?

The American Time Use survey reports that an average American work day includes 8.8 hours of work and 7.6 hours of sleep. Sleep is the second largest single use of time. However, new drugs such as Modafinil appear to vastly reduce the need for sleep without significant side effects (at least so far). Based on reports from users, it seems that people could realistically cut their sleep requirements to as few as 2.5 hours a night without a decrease in mental acuity. That gives us another 5 hours to distribute over the day.

 Source: Sociological Speculation. HT: Tyler Cowen.

Comments (13)

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  1. Andrew O says:

    I do not support this, unless it is only used via prescription for those that cannot obtain adequate hours of sleep under normal conditions. For the rest, we cannot expose a burnt out society and expect it to work without societal consequences between the employer and employee.

  2. Tyrus says:

    I’d wait to see more studies before I could make a committment on whether I approve or dissaprove of the drug.

    This is an interesting topic though. I remember reading about Alexander Hamilton, and the little time he spent sleeping over his life. Even before he got involved in the Revolutionary War, Hamilton routinely slept 4 hours or less. He would wake up every morning study Latin, excercise, study law, study military tactics, then go to sleep around 12am. It’s true with less sleep, we “could” achieve more. Only thing is, who here has self discipline that strong?

  3. Devon Herrick says:

    Science is finding that it’s not just the hours of sleep; it’s the hours of quality sleep. People wake up numerous times during the night and sometimes cannot get back to sleep. One recent study found that memory loss is a function of seniors not getting enough REM sleep.

  4. Evan Carr says:

    I’ve been fascinated by polyphasic sleep and have tried it numerous times but it never seems to work. For reasons I think are truly unknown, humans have a largely fixed sleep cycle. As uniphasic sleepers, we tend to sleep at night in accordance with day and night and our natural biological clock. Our metabolism is naturally set to vary throughout the day and bring us to rest at night. I find sleep disorders like insomnia fascinating!
    Additionally, I think that sleep is a psychological tool employed by our brains to connect with our sub-conscious. While I find sleeping less every night greatly appealing, I would NEVER take a drug that reduced how much sleep I need. That is simply not natural. In my research, polyphasic sleeping, that is sleeping in small blocks of time dispersed throughout the day, theoretically reduces the amount of total sleep you need by spreading out REM in different points throughout the day. However in practice, most practitioners find it difficult to maintain for more than a few months and often still require a sleep day which usually consists of a long 12 – 18 hour sleep at some interval.

  5. Sadat says:

    Apparently, five of core sleep is all we need to function effectively. Indeed, I get by on most days on five hours and feel pretty functional. Sometimes I function better from 5 hours as oppose to getting over 8 hours of sleep.

  6. Evan Carr says:

    It would be my suggestion that many people who sleep as little as 5 hours a night are actually addicted to caffeine and drink too many Red Bulls. They also probably aren’t “morning people”.

  7. Sadat says:

    Well, atleast the Red Bull keeps me sitting as my desk. No “standing” breaks for me.

  8. Devon Herrick says:

    I’ve also heard that sleep is the best antioxidant. Our bodies heal and regenerate while asleep. Improving alertness and feelings of restfulness once awake would be nice. But seeing how little sleep you can get by with may have long-term adverse consequences.

  9. Buster says:

    There are theories that the sleep drug, Lunesta, doesn’t actually do much in the way of inducing sleep. Rather, it inhibits short-term memory formation such that you forget all the times you tossed and turned the previous night.See

  10. Sadat says:

    Something on Modafinil, aka Provigil, quoted from the following source:

    “There is an increasing use of this medication, and people have promoted the off-label use of stimulants and Provigil as cognitive enhancers with the belief that these drugs are safe,” Volkow tells WebMD. “But these drugs have side effects, and their use without proper medical oversight could lead to abuse and addiction.”

  11. Sadat says:

    Provigil maker Cephalon agrees with the NIDA position that Provigil should not be taken by healthy individuals. But the company says the product’s label accurately describes the drug’s abuse potential.

  12. Gabriel Odom says:

    Call me a sceptic, but I remember seeing flyers and advertisements concerning the “health benefits” of Coca-Cola.

    I’ll give this one a few years – or decades – before I make a decision other than “no”.

  13. Devon Herrick says:

    New research posits that Modafinil helps with impulse control and helps alleviate impulsive drinking.