Is sleeping once a day a modern thing? Have humans always slept just once a day?

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In a short answer, yes.  We should really be adopting biphasic sleep.

Biphasic sleeping or sleeping twice a day seems to be natural thing that most of us would do if we were left to it.  Tribes untouched by modern life sleep in a biphasic pattern. A short nap of less than an hour in the afternoon and a full sleep of 7 – 8 hours at night.   

Frustratingly for us, the modern world is built to expect us to work a full day and it’s culturally not acceptable for most of us to sleep in the afternoon.  Thanks life!

Biphasic sleeping is still culturally acceptable and the siesta is still tradition in the Mediterranean region.  Sadly, this is decreasing. Some studies have shown decreases in health and life expectancy as a result.

One thing to remember, biphasic sleeping doesn’t mean you can sleep less at night.  

Be mindful not to nap for long periods of time and if you’re struggling to sleep at night do not nap as you’ll relieve sleep pressure which you need at night.


Want to know more? Our blog on sleep in culture expands on some of the themes above.

Written by
Sam Billington

Sam is our sleep guru. I am fascinated by sleep and I've used my science training to research and learn about sleep. I have been providing sleep advice and personal sleep plans for years. My day job is Head of Workplace Culture in Defra, I live in London with my wife and have a PhD in Ecology and Biology.