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3 Hours of Sleep at a Time– Pros and Cons of This Segmented Sleeping Method

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It seems most people do all they can to lengthen their resting times. But there are some folks out there who not only strive to shorten their sleep times but actually swear by the method, believing it brings them better cognitive function and more productivity.

What are the potential benefits and drawbacks of sleeping for three hours at a time? We’ll look at the potential benefits and drawbacks of a segmented sleeping pattern. We’ll also cover whether it’s safe to sleep for only three hours total and what this can mean for your health.

The Dangers of Sleeping Only 3 Hours

There is little research on sleeping for three hours specifically. However, this is much lower than the recommended seven hours or more that the American Academy of Sleep Medicine1 advises people to get. Therefore, when you only sleep this amount of time, you could become sleep-deprived.

The most detrimental effects of sleep deprivation may include long-term health problems2 like heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, or obesity. Another major side effect may be a decrease in cognitive function and proper decision-making3, which could lead to accidents, irritability, depression, or difficulty learning and remembering things.

Find Out More: Sleep Deprivation and Psychosis

Regarding segmented sleep, a study found that polyphasic sleepers (meaning they sleep for three or more periods a day) had more daytime sleepiness4 compared to other sleep patterns.

Are There Benefits to Sleeping Only Three Hours at a Time?

While we don’t recommend sleeping for only three hours in a 24-hour period, some people may wonder about sleeping in three-hour spurts. Despite the difficulties in implementing segmented sleeping, is there anything you stand to gain? 

One reason people may do this is the peace and quiet of alone time often denied by our busy schedules and hectic lifestyles. Sleeping at periodic intervals could result in the sleeper being awake while others are still at rest.

This could be an opportunity to indulge in personal hobbies or focused work tasks, free from disruptions and distractions. New skills could be developed that you may otherwise not have the time to attempt. This can also be a great time to relax further and clear the mind by utilizing meditation, introspective activities, or yoga.

A Note from Dr. Raj Dasgupta

“The Everyman sleep method is a polyphasic schedule made up of a short core sleep of 3-4 hours combined with multiple short naps throughout the day, which in theory hopes to optimize sleep efficiency and enhance waking productivity. Bottom line point: Aside from people’s personal reports, there does not appear to be any evidence that polyphasic sleep schedules are more beneficial than a monophasic sleep schedule. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults should receive at least seven hours of sleep per night”

Dr. Raj’s bio

Learn more: Segmented Sleep Method

Helpful Tips for Sleeping Better

In some cases, people may only be getting three hours of sleep unintentionally because they’re having trouble sleeping and then have to resort to daytime naps to help them get through the day.

To help you try to get a better and fuller night of sleep, we’ll cover some tips that should help make it easier for you to doze off at bedtime.

Limit or Avoid Caffeine

Caffeine is a well-known stimulant. While many of us use it to wake up in the morning, having it in our system at night could make it harder to fall asleep. A systematic review5 of caffeine’s impact on sleep found that this substance increased the time it takes to fall asleep by nine minutes and reduced total sleep time by 45 minutes. 

If you’re struggling to sleep at night, try to limit your caffeine consumption to just the mornings or avoid it altogether if you can.

Learn More: How Does Caffeine Affect Sleep Quality?

Avoid Naps Late in the Day

Napping during the day could make it harder for you to feel sleepy at night. If you must take a nap, though, there are some ways to nap better6 so that it’s less likely to impact your nighttime sleep.

 First, only nap in the early afternoon before 3:00 p.m. Second, keep your naps short; they should only be 10-20 minutes long so they don’t leave you feeling groggy afterward.6

Keep a Regular Sleep Schedule

Another tip for getting better sleep is to stick to a regular sleep schedule. This means that you’re going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, which can help train your body to feel sleepy at the appropriate time. 

This is also important for long-term health. According to research7, adults who keep irregular sleep schedules have an increased risk of cardiometabolic issues, which could include diabetes.  

Learn more: Tips to Improve Sleep Quality

Frequently Asked Questions

Is 3 hours of sleep enough?

No, in general, three hours of sleep is not enough. As mentioned earlier, adults should get at least seven hours of sleep a night, and three hours is well below this amount.

Can you survive a day with 3 hours of sleep?

Ideally? No. Only getting three hours of sleep in a day can leave you sleep-deprived, which has been linked to various negative outcomes8 for emotional, cognitive, and physical health. These can include a weakened immune system, an increased risk of obesity, memory decline, and more.

A 2021 study9 of resident physicians found that sleep deprivation led to more impulsive choices, slower cognitive processing, and worse executive function. This could be especially dangerous if you have to drive or use heavy machinery.

Are there negative effects of sleeping only 3 hours?

Yes. Most experts caution against these types of methods because there is very little research to support this type of sleep method. Also, only sleeping for three hours in a full day (not a segmented sleep method) could be especially harmful to your health overall since it’ll leave you sleep-deprived.1 As mentioned above, sleep deprivation can negatively impact your mental, physical, and emotional health.8


In the end, the choice to sleep in bursts or one continuous session is completely up to you. Only you will know what your body can handle and whether or not either sleep structure is suitable for your various needs. Be careful to pay attention to side effects that may affect your health negatively and adjust your nap times as needed or return to a traditional routine.

Remember that it may take you a little bit of time to adjust to this new method and employ soothing techniques such as meditation, relaxing ambient sounds, or endorphin-inducing exercises to help keep yourself on track.

Jill Zwarensteyn

Jill Zwarensteyn


About Author

Jill Zwarensteyn is the Editor for Sleep Advisor and a Certified Sleep Science Coach. She is enthusiastic about providing helpful and engaging information on all things sleep and wellness.

Combination Sleeper

  1. “Sleep FAQs”. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Webpage accessed March 20, 2024.
  2. “What Are Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency?”. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Last modified March 24, 2022.
  3. Kumar Chattu, Vijay., et al. “The Global Problem of Insufficient Sleep and Its Serious Public Health Implications”. Healthcare. 2019.
  4. Al-Abri, Mohammed A., et al. “Sleep Patterns and Quality in Omani Adults”. Nature and Science of Sleep. 2020.
  5. Gardiner, Carissa., et al. “The effect of caffeine on subsequent sleep: A systematic review and meta-analysis”. Sleep Medicine Reviews. 2023.
  6. “Napping: Do’s and don’ts for healthy adults”. Mayo Clinic. Last modified November 9, 2022.
  7. Zuraikat, Faris M., et al. “Sleep Regularity and Cardiometabolic Heath: Is Variability in Sleep Patterns a Risk Factor for Excess Adiposity and Glycemic Dysregulation?”. National Library of Medicine. 2020.
  8. Cheok Liew, Siaw., Aung, Thidar. “Sleep deprivation and its association with diseases- a review”. Sleep Medicine. 2021.
  9. Choshen-Hillel PhD, Shoham., et al. “Acute and Chronic Sleep Deprivation in Residents – Cognition and Stress Biomarkers”. National Library of Medicine. 2020.