I am asking whether adults, especially in circumstances like a monastery or Zen center, can become able long-term to sleep only about 4 to 5 hours a night? So, that would mean: no children to care for, no heavy labor, lots of time spent meditating and doing other things that the body would find restful and undemanding...

Can the mind get along on much less hours of sleep than the usual adult? I am not asking about the absolute numbers, only if it can be reduced and sustained over years, or permanently?

  • $\begingroup$ No answers or comments after a week, so my guess is NO. If people could, they would. "Absence of evidence is evidence of absence" (say that three times fast). So then the real question is: why do monasteries, etc try to get people to sleep less? $\endgroup$
    – user9634
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 13:27
  • $\begingroup$ Also absence of search leads to absence of evidence. 4-5 hours per night, a lot of people do that and wake up to go to work, go to school, tend their children. It is not healthy, and lowers mental and physical perfomance but can be done for some time. One hour you will have to rest, in a bed or in a coffin. $\endgroup$
    – Daniel
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 2:23
  • $\begingroup$ The sources I list in this question indicate the answer is most likely 'no'. However, perhaps there is something specific going on in the case of meditation. $\endgroup$
    – Steven Jeuris
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 14:16
  • $\begingroup$ In non-religious contexts, there are people who practise(d) shorter, distributed sleep cycles, sleeping about 4 hours a day. I'll add a link if I find it again. $\endgroup$
    – user24582
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 8:32
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There are several questions on polyphasic sleep on Stackexchange, e.g. skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/999/… $\endgroup$
    – user24582
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 8:57

1 Answer 1


A paper by Kaul et al. from 2010 suggest that meditation can indeed decrease the need for sleep. Meditation acutely improves psychomotor vigilance, and may decrease sleep need

Quote from conclusions:

These results suggest that meditation provides at least a short-term performance improvement even in novice meditators. In long term meditators, multiple hours spent in meditation are associated with a significant decrease in total sleep time when compared with age and sex matched controls who did not meditate. Whether meditation can actually replace a portion of sleep or pay-off sleep debt is under further investigation.


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