Harvard Researchers Discovered A 4-Hour Rule That Is More Important For A Good Night’s Sleep Than Getting 8 Hours

When it comes to sleep, consistency is key.

woman sleeping, haravrd study Lia Koltyrina / Shutterstock 

In order to make it through the day, we are often told that we need to get our eight hours of sleep in the night before. However, new research may prove otherwise. 

A recent study conducted by Harvard researchers found that it is not the quantity, but the quality of sleep a person gets that matters most.

Harvard researchers discovered that getting four hours of uninterrupted sleep was more beneficial than eight hours of broken-up sleep. 

The study, which was published in the journal “Sleep” and conducted by Harvard-affiliated researchers revealed sleeping habit secrets that could improve our quality of life. 


In order to have truly restorative and beneficial sleep, consistency is key. You should aim to follow a specific bedtime routine, going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time each morning. If you work full-time or go to school, it's easier to establish a specific bedtime pattern. 

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Believe it or not, if you are consistent with your sleeping routine, you do not even have to hit eight hours each night, despite the Sleep Foundation’s recommendation

According to the study, sleeping six, or even as low as four hours each night consistently was linked to a lower risk of early death as opposed to those who slept for eight hours on some nights, but failed to stick to eight hours regularly. 



It was also discovered that sleep regularity decreased the risk of premature death by any cause by 20 to 48% compared to those with irregular sleep schedules. 


So, what does an irregular sleep schedule look like? It ranges anywhere from falling asleep at a decent hour, but waking up consistently throughout the night, falling asleep with the television on, going to bed at different times each night, and napping throughout the day. 

Sleep duration is still an important factor when it comes to getting proper sleep. According to Angus Burns, a research fellow at Harvard Medical School who co-wrote the study, those who get a long, consistent sleep each night had the lowest mortality risk. Although shorter regular sleep was associated with lower mortality than longer, inconsistent sleep. 

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Irregular sleep patterns can have detrimental effects on our health that we may not even realize. 

“Irregular sleep, very consistently across papers, was associated with a wide variety of adverse outcomes,” Matthew Weaver, a Harvard-affiliated researcher, and member of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, told the Harvard Gazette. “It was associated with worse metabolic outcomes, like obesity and metabolic syndrome, but also cardiovascular disease, hypertension, an increase in a number of different inflammatory markers, and increased pain, to name a few.” 


harvard research found 4-hour rule better than 8 hours of sleepPhoto: cyano66 from Getty Images / Canva Pro

Sleep irregularity is also linked to mental health issues, including higher rates of depression and anxiety, and lower self-esteem and general well-being. 

Weaver also echoed the fact that sleep duration is less significant than sleep quality. “When we talk about sleep, duration gets the most attention. That is an important component of healthy sleep, but it’s just one component,” he said. “Increasing evidence has accumulated over the past few years that sleep regularity is also very important, but there has been no public guidance on that issue.” 


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So, what are some ways we can stick to a consistent sleep schedule and get the proper amount of rest? 

According to the CDC, consistency is key, just as the Harvard study proved. Going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time in the morning, including the weekends, is an ideal way to start. You can also eliminate distractions that could disrupt your sleep, such as televisions, lights, and smartphones. 

harvard research fouond the 4-hour rule is better than 8 hours of sleepPhoto: Olena Yakobchuk / Shutterstock 


Let’s be real, for many of us, getting eight hours of sleep each night can be unrealistic, especially if you are a parent of young children, attending college, or working round the clock. 

Fewer quality sleep hours might be within reach, however, and if Harvard researchers are right, just four hours could be the secret to improved energy and focus levels throughout the day. 

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Megan Quinn is a writer at YourTango who covers entertainment and news, self, love, and relationships.