Is It Better to Stay Awake or Sleep for an Hour?


I’m awake in the middle of the night, and I’m wondering, would it better to try to sleep at least a one hour or give up and stay awake for the whole night? From my personal experience, and after doing some research, I would say:

Even a small amount of sleep is better than no sleep at all. You need sleep to restore your energy, even if you can’t get the amount of sleep that you would usually need. Some people think that it’s better to stay awake if you have already been awake for almost the whole night. However, there is no scientific proof for this claim.

Because there are various opinions about this subject, let’s find out if there is any reason to stay awake the whole night, or if sleeping is really always the better option, even when it is just for an hour or two.

Why get a little amount of sleep, even for one hour?

What is the reason for sleeping in the first place?

To let your body rest and the brain “get recharged”.

Also, after a good night’s sleep, or even with a little amount of sleep, you are probably much more functional during the day.

So, what happens if you don’t sleep at all during the night?

Simply, your body won’t get as much rest as it should. It might feel just fine to stay awake only for one whole night, but only in very rare cases does it give you any real benefit. In fact, in the long run having a habit of skipping whole nights of sleep will cause serious damage that you surely don’t want to have.

However, there might be some situations when you simply don’t have time for more than just one or a couple of hours of sleep, and you need to decide: sleep or stay awake.

This is a matter that has sparked a lot of conversation. Actually, on the internet, there are many forum posts and other discussions related to this issue, and opinions are relatively different.

But a quick look of those forum posts shows that most people think that sleeping is the right solution.

According to people who have slept for only one or a couple of hours after a sleepless night, many of them feel it is beneficial to get a little sleep, even though it may be tough to wake up after such a tiny amount of sleep.

One of the most important reasons to sleep, even if it’s a small amount, is the impact on your health.

There are a lot of scientific studies proving that lack of sleep might cause various health problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, sleep apnea, and obesity.

You may feel very dizzy just after an hour’s sleep, but it may well be that your cognitive abilities are better than when not sleeping at all.

That is why you should never deliberately skip sleep, for any reason. Well, probably everyone has skipped sleep at some point, when it seemed to be a good idea. But it is better to try not to make it a (bad) habit.

As mentioned, there are different opinions and different viewpoints to this matter. So how do you know which is the best practice in your situation?

This whole question may often rise in the situation when you have an exam in the next morning, and you want to prepare and study as much as possible.

Or there might be another stressful event in the morning, such as a job interview or moving to a new house.

It is said that when there is an exam ahead, it is better to use the time to sleep, rather than to try to study too much for the exam.

This is because your ability to learn won’t get better if you try to learn too much the last minute. It is actually proven that having a good sleep or even a small amount of sleep before any test is much more effective than trying to push too hard.

For instance, Mythbusters once tested “a crab-fishing themed obstacle course” where they tried to pass the test being well-rested, after being awake for a 30 hours, and finally taking naps from time to time during the 30 hours period. What was the result?

For first, after resting well, the results were excellent. But after staying awake for 30 hours, the results were much poorer. Finally, they tested the same course after having 20 minute naps from time to time during the 30 hours time period. At that point, the results were about twice as good compared for not sleeping at all for 30 hours.

So it seems that staying awake for 30 hours without any sleep can impact you a lot. This is especially important when you’re facing an exam or another activity that requires good thinking ability.

Does an hour of sleep make a difference? Is one hour of sleep really worth it?

Yes. Sleeping, even for an hour, gives you rest that your body needs.

Also, if I have slept just around one hour during the night, it feels much better to get up and do something, compared to the situation when I haven’t slept at all during the night.

Why would someone not sleep even for an hour? 

Some people have the opinion that it would be fine if you stay awake for one whole night, when there is just a small amount of night left after being awake during the night.

The reason for this opinion is that many say that it would be too tough to get out of bed after just a short period of sleep.

Also, some people feel that after having a minimal amount of sleep makes them feel more feeling tired and unable to do things properly.

In such a case, it is understandable to think that staying awake for the whole night would be a better option. However, sleeping is always the more recommended option, even if it’s just a short period of sleep.

The most optimal situation, of course, would be to sleep for the whole night. Even when there is an exam in the morning or other things you should do before morning.

One concern might be the quality of sleep. Some may think that it is better to stay awake if you can’t sleep enough, because maybe the feeling in the morning will be as bad as after no sleep at all. Some think that the feeling in the morning is so bad that it is better to stay awake for the whole night.

This might be different for each of us and in different circumstances, so no one can say what is the right solution in each situation.

However, when there is a question about sleep, it seems better to have some sleep in any case, especially in the night.

What have I learned?

The answer might seem obvious. Of course, it is better to sleep always when it is possible, right?

I’m writing this at 12 o’clock in the midnight, and I wonder how many hours it will take to get sleep this time.

Yes, sometimes even I can’t get sleep, and that is one reason why I want to do research and write about sleep.

I feel that I would like to sleep whenever it is possible for me. It doesn’t mean that I specifically wouldn’t want to sleep at night time. Sometimes I just don’t feel the need to sleep, and I can sleep in the daytime more.

However, sometimes when I need to wake up early, it might be that I just can’t fall asleep before small hours.

Then, sleeping for even one hour feels refreshing, even though I will have a dizzy feeling during the day. Especially, if there is a need for focused thinking in the morning, sleeping even for a short time helps me to do it better.

How to fall asleep if there is something you need to do in the morning?

First and foremost, it would be better to forget what is coming in the morning. The more you are concerned about what is coming, the more stressed you may get.

For instance, if there is an exam in the morning, preparing for that before the last moment is better, so that you can peacefully rest and sleep the night before the exam. The results are more likely much better than when trying to read and stay awake the night before the exam.

Similarly, preparing for any other big event the next day is much more effective if you can have a good night’s sleep.

How to fall asleep in the middle of the night, when there is just an hour or two time to sleep?

If you haven’t slept at all and there is not too much of the night left, there are ways to fall asleep for an hour or two. Actually, at that point you might be so tired that falling asleep can happen quite quickly: just lie down on the bed and close your eyes. That is what always happens to me if I am awake around 5 am.

But if you feel that it is still impossible to fall asleep at that time, it may be better to practice similar routines as any other time when you can’t fall asleep straight away.

Best practices to fall asleep (in the small hours)

It is usually all about relaxing. When there is something exciting happening the next day, resting might feel very difficult. But there is something you can try:

Relax your whole body step by step:

  • Starting from toes, tense muscles for around 10 seconds and release them. Repeat a few times.
  • Do the same exercise for all other muscle groups, especially for legs, shoulders and neck area.
  • Keep doing until you fall asleep.

You might feel so nervous about the next day’s issues that your mind is filled with anxiety. Therefore, it would be good to relax your mind too.

One simple option to relax your mind is counting numbers backward.

  • Start from the huge random number, like 247 697
  • Count down slowly and in a steady rhythm
  • Don’t let any other thought interrupt you

When you keep on counting down the numbers, you will more likely fall asleep quite fast.

Starting the countdown from a large number it makes it easier to focus just on the counting, and then other (stressful) thoughts won’t pop up on the mind so quickly.

Furthermore, you probably won’t need to continue counting for a long time, as you feel like almost falling asleep.

For a side note, the goal is not to go down until you would get to number “0”! So don’t resist falling asleep.

Related Questions:

Is it possible to sleep 3 to 4 hours per night?

It is possible, but is it recommendable? You might have heard some people claim that they can survive easily with just three to four hours per night. For example, some politicians claim to be able to live with around four hours of sleep every night.

But, if this works for some (rare) people, can it work for everyone? Doubly, no.

There are a few people who have tested this in practice. Some have established a new sleep rhythm. But surely it is not for most of us.

In the long term, this kind of sleeping schedule may cause serious health problems, so it is crucial to follow a sleeping schedule that suits you.

There is different need of sleep for everyone. Therefore, you should not endanger your health by trying any sleeping habit that is unnatural to you.

How to get enough sleep when I’m having lots of homework to be done?

You need to prioritize. In this case it means that you should balance the time needed for both, your homework and sleep.

But make sure that you prioritize sleeping. As mentioned earlier, it is much more helpful to prepare for the exam by sleeping well. Similarly, sleeping helps you to have the energy to focus on your regular schoolwork the next day and to do more homework in the upcoming days.

There are also some tactics to do your homework much faster.

For instance, if you have to read a lot of homework, you could read faster by using a speed reading method.

It means that you don’t read every word in the text. Instead, you scan the book, and you can find the crucial main points very fast and efficiently.

This helps you to prepare much faster for your homework and accomplish them sooner.

Furthermore, if you struggle with some homework, don’t hesitate to ask for help with them. If it’s a big issue, it would be better to ask your teacher first, but you may request your schoolmate or another friend to help you.

Also, it is always good to remember to not let your homework wait for the last moment. Finish it as soon as possible, and then you may avoid unnecessary stress, and you have time to sleep enough.

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