Is 2 hours of sleep better than none? [UPDATED 2024]
There are so many reasons why we struggle to sleep. Health conditions, insomnia, medications, stress, noise, anxiety, and a stiff mattress could all contribute to only a few hours of sleep a night. Sometimes, we find ourselves sleeping for only four or five hours a night, and we feel worse than if we had not slept at all! If you have ever wondered “is 2 hours of sleep better than none?”, we answer it here for you.
Why does this happen?
A typical sleep cycle around 90 minutes for most people. At this stage, you are more easily able to wake up from your sleep. However, once we pass this mark, it is believed we are deeper in our sleep cycle. This makes it much harder for us to get up, feeling groggy and still feeling tired.
The sleep cycle
The sleep cycle consists of 4 stages. Beginning with Stage one when you achieve a light sleep. Moving to Stage 2 which is intermediate sleep. Stage 3 is a deep sleep, and Stage 4 moves to REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep.
During the light and intermediate stages, it is easier for you to wake up. Think of this as the sort of sleep you would have during a nap. Then you fall into a deep sleep where the body repairs your muscle, tissues and bones, and you are harder to wake. Finally, you reach rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, where you begin to dream and your heart and brain rate increases again. REM sleep is the vital stage for memory consolidation, emotional processing & brain repair. Most adults need about 2 hours of REM sleep each night to maintain health.
Is it better to stay up all night?
The answer to whether it is better to sleep for two hours or not at all is… neither. Staying awake all night poses health risks in the long and short term. As you can see from the stages shown above, you may achieve one cycle of sleep but you won’t manage the vital 2 hours of REM sleep your body needs. Not sleeping at all can be risky if you have a difficult or manual job, or if you drive, or work in healthcare. You may experience reduced reaction time, poor memory, poor concentration, and irritability.
However, there are claims that two hours could be too much sleep when deciding whether to have two hours or nothing at all. Sleeping beyond the minimum 90-minute cycle may mean you fall deeper into your sleep cycle and will find it much harder to wake up.
The best answer to this question is that some sleep is always better than none. Trying to get in a power nap or achieving that full 90-minute cycle is better for you than no sleep at all.
If you are in a pinch, how much sleep is best?
If you know you will not get your full eight hours, maybe you have had a sudden change in circumstances, arriving back from a trip or many other reasons. There are two options that may suit this situation. Try to sleep for 90 minutes, opt for one full cycle to try and get through the day. If this is not possible, try to take a 20–30-minute power nap, so that you do not fall into the deep sleep cycle.
Remember, any sleep is better than none, however, different amounts of sleep may make you feel groggier than others.