Debunking your sleep patterns is certainly tough. Nocturnal sleep disturbances can leave you reaching for over the counter sleep aids. However, research suggests waking at night isn’t a sign of insomnia or unnatural for most people. A biphasic pattern, which consists of two marked periods of sleep of 30 minutes or more, is the medical name for this sleeping habit.
Historically speaking, you can learn a lot from your ancestors. A sleep historian at Virginia Tech University and author of “At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past,” Roger Ekirch claims humans slept in a four hour period with an hour or longer of wakefulness at night between them.
Is it Insomnia?
No. Unlike insomnia, biphasic sleep is a sleeping pattern that is neither a medical condition, caused by outside factors, nor a cause for alarm. Insomniacs generally have a much harder time falling back asleep after waking. Some even wake frequently throughout their sleep.
Two types of insomnia are primary and secondary. The secondary has outside factors, such as heartburn, anxiety, and depression, where primary usually has no known cause. Insomnia suffers often wake feeling drained, as if they didn’t sleep enough. They might drag throughout their day, but when bedtime arrives, they usually repeat the process and find themselves in a cycle.
Types of Sleep Patterns
- Biphasic—2 sleeps per 24 hours
- Monophasic—1 sleep per 24 hours
- Polyphasic—more than 2 sleeps per 24 hours
Most adults use the monophasic sleep cycle without realizing it. It doesn’t produce restful sleep or you’re still waking at night for a brief hour or so before drifting off again. When this happens, your body might be telling you that you’re sleeping wrong.
Recommended Sleep Times and Sleep Patterns
First, recommended sleep times are a guideline. Your body might require more or less sleep than what’s recommended for your age bracket. However, you should understand why sleep is an important marker for good health. You should also strive to give your body as much sleep as it requires, even if that means adjusting your sleeping pattern.
Poor sleep can be a factor or lead to:
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
Sleep is where your body repairs itself, and if you’re not sleeping enough or receiving quality sleep, your health can suffer. Mental health is another factor to consider. The same stress and depression that can lead to insomnia can also work against your overall health.
How to Determine Your Sleep Needs
As stated, every person is different. A good place to start is by referring to your age bracket. These ranges came directly from Sleep Health: The Journal of the National Sleep Foundation.
The second step is to evaluate your current habits. Have you already found yourself waking at night for an hour or two before falling back asleep with no disturbance to your daily life? If so, you might not need to change anything. Instead, embrace your biphasic pattern and limit your exposure to stimuli during that brief waking period.
If you’ve noticed problems with your sleeping habits, you might wish to train your body around another sleep schedule. One important factor in the sleeping guidelines is that there is no mention of requiring the sleep in a solid chunk. If it suits your lifestyle, you can try to fit in shorter amounts of sleep throughout your day until you discover the balance your body needs.
Debunking Your Sleep Patterns – More Tips
Of course, even though you might have a different sleep pattern, you could also suffer from acute or prolonged bouts of insomnia. If you find your middle of the night waking periods disrupt your life, have health concerns, or want further guidance, you should speak with your doctor and consider a sleep study.