Can You Function on 2 Hours of Sleep?

You are probably aware of the fact that healthy adults need from seven to nine hours of sleep in order to function the best possible way throughout every day. That’s according to the National Sleep Foundation. Children need even more than that in order to develop the proper way.

But the thing is, most of us do not take this guideline seriously enough, and quite often, we go to bed pretty late even though we have to get up quite early the next morning.

The truth is not all of us know that the lack of sleep can be sometimes dangerous and that it can affect so many things in our life – from our mood and our cognitive functions to our weight and our general health.

Now, the question is – do we always have to get the whole seven hours of sleep, or we can sometimes work only on two? Today’s lifestyle is demanding us to find the time for education, work, social life, traveling, etc., which makes it pretty hard to have the right amount of rest each day.

Now, you probably found yourself in a situation where you greeted the dawn without even going to bed the night before, thinking whether you should have 2 hours of sleep or would it be better to simply skip sleeping completely and continue with your regular tasks.

Here is what the experts had to say about that.

Should I sleep for two hours or stay awake?

If it happens you stay up late working, for example, you may face a common dilemma – wondering is 2 hours of sleep worth it, or is it better for you to overcome the crisis and remain wide awake. According to experts in this subject, getting any sleep is better than none, so the answer to this question is pretty clear.

The explanation why it is better to sleep 2 hours a night than not sleeping at all lies in the fact sleep is the only time when our body rests truly. It’s the time when our short-term memory transfers into long-term memory when our hormones are being replenished and our tissues repaired. So some sleep is definitely better than the complete absence of it.

According to some research, when people skip their regular night’s rest completely, it’s almost certain their mood and their cognitive skills will drastically decline the next day. Some studies are even equalizing being drunk with being sleep deprived. Apparently, an individual who is awake for more than 24 hours is the same as a person who has 0.10 percent of alcohol in his system.

The regular sleep hours will allow your body to go through all four stages of sleep four to six times, and that’s the perfect scenario. You are probably aware that having only a couple of hours for rest isn’t ideal, but it’s still better than skipping on them because that way, you will be able to at least go through one sleep cycle.

If you do so, it’s more likely you won’t feel as groggy as you would without sleeping at all.

How does the sleep cycle work?

As we previously mentioned, there are four stages of sleep, and each sleep cycle lasts around an hour and a half. But they are all divided into two main categories – we have REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep.

And what’s even more interesting is that 80 percent of the time, when we are asleep, we are at the NREM stage.

  • Stage 1 usually lasts from one to five minutes, it’s the lightest stage of sleep, and it belongs to the NREM category. At this stage, your whole body will begin to relax, your breathing will start slowing down, and your heart rate and brain waves will change.
  • Stage 2, in most cases, lasts for about 25 minutes, at least when we are talking about our first sleep cycle. It will last longer with each additional cycle. In this stage, our body temperature will drop down, and our breathing will become even slower. It’s also in the NREM category.
  • Stage 3 is the third NREM stage of sleep, but it is a deep sleep phase that allows our body to recover its strength and to work on building its immune system. When we are at this third stage of sleep, pretty much nothing can wake us up, even the loud noises.
  • Stage 4 is the REM stage of sleep, during which we are usually dreaming. It’s called REM because the chances are our eyes would be moving a lot, even though they are closed, and our muscles will be like paralyzed. In most cases, this phase will start 90 minutes after you fall asleep.

Why is skipping sleep bad for you?

There are two main reasons why skipping sleep is a problem. The first one is its impact on our circadian rhythm, and the second one is how it affects our sleep pressure. 

Our body has its internal clock that makes us feel wide awake during the day and sleepy and tired during the night hours. We call it circadian rhythm, and whenever we skip sleeping when we should, when our body is used to having rest, we risk disrupting our circadian rhythm, which can lead to some serious consequences.

Sleep pressure is a feeling of tiredness we start experiencing as the regular time we go to bed becomes closer and closer, and it usually becomes stronger the longer we stay awake. So if we do not sleep at all, the fatigue and drowsiness will follow us throughout the night and the next day.

But if you do get some sleep, even an hour or two, the sleep pressure will decrease, and you will feel less tired the next morning than if you are not to sleep at all.

Be aware that the complete absence of sleep can lead to the following:

  • Increased stress
  • Poor concentration
  • Impaired judgment
  • Slow reaction time
  • Impaired memory
  • Lower tolerance to pain

Downsides of too little sleep

Now let’s see what can you expect to experience due to sleep deprivation. There is no doubt that having only a couple of hours of sleep a night will affect your cognitive abilities and your judgment. That’s for starters. But you will also find yourself in a position to make pretty bad decisions. 

For example, you may think you are able to drive, but if you have less than six hours of sleep, the risk of you falling asleep while in front of the wheel are huge. According to one research, they increase by 260 percent compared to situations where you had your normal seven to nine hours to rest properly.

And that’s only the short-term convenience of being sleep-deprived. If this continues, there are some serious things you should be worried about, like a high level of anxiety, obesity, weakened immune system, low sex drive, diabetes, depression, heart conditions, infertility, etc.


We are pretty sure most of you believed having no sleep at all was better than sleeping for only a couple of hours. That’s because you probably think waking up after two hours would be a nightmare, or because you are wondering how to function on 2 hours of sleep, is that enough.

Well, it’s pretty clear it’s not, and that we need to have at least six hours of continuous rest in order for our body to work properly, but the fact is that way our sleep pressure and circadian rhythm won’t be disturbed as much as we are to skip sleeping fully.

So bear in mind this – whenever you have the chance to sleep, do that. Even if it’s just for a couple of two. You will do yourself a favor and help your body to go through the next day.