Is 1 Hour of Sleep Enough or Is Pulling An All-Nighter Better?

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If you are reading this because this is currently your situation, skip to the conclusion at the bottom and hurry up and get some rest. But if you have time for all the information keep reading to know how to best battle your sleeping predicament.

Whatever your situation might be, facing the possibility of only getting one hour of sleep can be overwhelming. So what do you do, stay up till the crack of dawn or get 60 minutes of not-so-sweet shuteye?

There are a lot of reasons you may only get one hour, like if it’s finals week and you’ve stayed up way too late before the big exam or maybe your insomnia has gotten the better of you and the workday begins in just a few hours. Maybe you have a newborn baby that hasn’t quite fallen in love with her crib yet.

This article will highlight the reality of this scenario as well as answer a few other commonly asked quantitative bedtime dilemmas. Keep in mind, we never recommend getting only one hour of sleep at night if it's possible to avoid this situation.

Is It Better to Sleep for an Hour or Not at All?

If you have ever pulled an all-nighter at some point you may have asked yourself, “Is it better to stay awake or sleep for an hour?”

Well, in truth neither answer would likely serve you best. Completing a sleep cycle takes 90 minutes, which is where sleepers should find their most beneficial rest. So, if you can squeeze in 90 minutes, and fit in a few naps later in the day, you may be able to catch up on the rest you need to function.

If getting that extra 30 is not in the cards, then taking a 15 to 20-minute nap may be your best bet. When you wake up after 60 it is likely you may be getting up during Stage 4, which is categorized as deep sleep. During this phase of rest, you may wake up more groggy and tired than when you fell asleep.

Chart of Sleep Cycle

At 90 minutes your body should be in REM, which is rapid eye movement, the stage where you dream. You may often notice that you naturally wake up while you are dreaming, this is for a reason, as this is the phase where your body should be most ready to be aroused out of bed.

Get More Info: The 4 Stages of Sleep

Should I Sleep for 2 Hours or Stay Awake?

Unfortunately, in this situation, 2 hours may be too much.

Sleeping past the 90-minute mark may shove you down deeper into your cycle and create more of a problem when it’s time to get up and move it.

In general, the more cycles you can manage to complete, the better. Instead of completing one partway, however, it may be better to get going and grab your favorite cup of coffee with the extra time.

Is Some Sleep Better than None?

Sleeping at Desk vs Sleeping On Couch

Yes, most of the time, catching even just a few zzz’s is better than nothing. When you truly have less than an hour, power napping for 20 could be in your best interest. However, when you have the time, try to make it through one cycle so you’ll be in better shape until you can catch up on some much-needed shuteye.

Learn More: Benefits of Power Nap

Potential Risks

We never recommend sleeping for only one hour at night. Some research from the Whitehall II study suggests that lost sleep can shave years off your life and that you may not ever be able to catch up on the hours of rest you lose.

We want to be clear in saying that getting ninety minutes of sleep isn’t preferable to a full 8 hours, especially if you’re going to be driving or working in a high-risk environment. When your body is sleep-deprived, you could experience microsleeps or short lapses in consciousness that can have dangerous consequences. If you’re truly in a dire situation, we encourage you to weigh the possible risks versus the potential benefits before putting yourself in danger.

Want to know more? See how one night of poor sleep affects our health.


If you’ve got an hour or less and are contemplating sleep versus staying awake, choosing sleep is always the best route to take. Keep in mind that 90 minutes would serve you best in this situation, but some sleep is better than none. A quick 20-minute power nap is probably the best choice if you can’t commit to sleeping for a full cycle.

When possible, try to get seven to eight hours of rest each night, as that should allow your body enough time to get enough rest. We also know that the occasional all-nighter happens, and you may be faced with the dilemma of sleep for an hour or not at all. In that case, sleep for 20 and commit to catching up on those zzz’s as soon as possible. For your safety, try not to make a habit of sleeping for only one hour at night.

Our team covers as many areas of expertise as we do time zones, but none of us started here as a so-called expert on sleep. What we do share is a willingness to ask questions (lots of them), seek experts, and dig deep into conventional wisdom to see if maybe there might be a better path towards healthy living. We apply what we learn not only to our company culture, but also how we deliver information to our over 12.7M readers.

Sleep research is changing all the time, and we are 100% dedicated to keeping up with breakthroughs and innovations. You live better if you sleep better. Whatever has brought you here, we wish you luck on your journey towards better rest.

Professor in the Masters of Counselling program at Bradley University, Co-director for the Center for Collaborative Brain Research, Co-founder of Chapin & Russell Associates

Dr. Lori A. Russell-Chapin is a professor in the Masters of Counselling program at Bradley University and writes a monthly blog for “Psychology Today” on various topics, including sleep hygiene and mental health.

Dr. Russell-Chapin is currently a co-director for the Center for Collaborative Brain Research. She practices private counseling part-time and serves as the national chair for the Neurocounseling Interest Network.

She has presented workshops internationally on issues including clinical supervision, neurofeedback, epigenetics, and self-regulation.

Sleep Advisor