Is it Better to Stay Awake or Sleep for an Hour? The Definitive Answer


According to the CDC, adults need at least seven hours of sleep at night. But life is busy and getting the proper amount of sleep is not always easy. This statement is especially true if you are travelling, studying for an exam, and raising children.

If you have already pulled an all-nighter, you are probably wondering if it is better for you to just stay awake or try to sleep for an hour before you need to get up for the day. The truth is, a complete sleep cycle takes ninety minutes, where you will find your best and most beneficial rest. 

If all you have is an hour and you can’t sneak in the extra thirty minutes, it may be more beneficial to take a short 15 to 20-minute nap instead of sleeping for an hour. If you wake up after sixty minutes, it is extremely likely that you will be waking up in the middle of your rapid eye movement phase of sleep. If you wake up during this stage of sleep, chances are you will feel even more tired than you did before you fell asleep.

What About Two Hours?

If you are asking this question because you just pulled an all-nighter and you are really tired, two hours of sleep might be too much. If you sleep past the sweet spot of ninety minutes, you might slip into a deeper part of your sleep cycle. This will make it even more difficult for you to wake up on time.

Is Some Sleep Better Than No Sleep?

In most cases, yes, some sleep will be better than no sleep at all. If you really do have less than sixty minutes to get some rest, a 20-minute power nap will be your best bet for the most rested sleep in that situation. However, if you have the time, it is important to try to make it through one full sleep cycle.

Sleeping and letting your body rest helps your brain recharge. There are several scientific studies that show lack of sleep can cause some serious health problems. Sleep, even if it is just a little sleep, is extremely important for your health.

Sleep Cycle

When you are sleeping, your body will cycle through four stages of sleep every ninety minutes. On a normal night, you will get between four and six of these cycles. Sleeping through at least one full sleep cycle can help you wake up feeling more rested and less groggy.

The four sleep cycles can be divided into two categories which are rapid eye movement and non-rapid eye movement. Non-rapid eye movement takes up about eighty percent of your sleep cycle.

Stage 1: NREM

Stage 1 (also called N1) is the latest stage of sleep. It will usually last one to five minutes. Your breathing and heart rate will start to slow down some, and your muscles will begin to relax.

Stage 2: NREM

During stage 2 (also N2), your body temperature will start to drop while your heart rate and breathing continue to slow. This stage usually lasts about twenty-five minutes during your first sleep cycle and get longer with each cycle.

Stage 3: NREM

Stage 3 (N3), or deep sleep, is when your body takes time to repair itself and strengthens your immune system. If there are loud noises around you, they may not wake you up during this stage.

Stage 4: REM

REM sleep is where you are most likely to dream. This stage is characterized by the stillness of your muscles and the quick movements of your eyes. This stage usually occurs about ninety minutes after you fall asleep and gets longer with each cycle.

What Are Some Risks of Not Getting Enough Sleep?

It is important to remember that ninety minutes of sleep is not preferable to a full eight-hour sleep. This is especially important if you drive a lot or work in a high-risk workplace. If your body hits a point of sleep deprivation, you will likely start to experience what is called “microsleeps”, known as short lapses in consciousness, which can result in some dangerous consequences. 

According to the CDC, if you are awake for 18 hours or more throughout the day, you will experience a similar impairment to having a blood alcohol content of 0.05 percent. If you are awake for 24 hours, this is equivalent to having a blood alcohol content of 0.10 percent. Basically, skipping sleep is equivalent to being drunk.

Without proper sleep you can also experience impaired short-term memory, poor concentration, impaired judgement, irritability, impaired reaction time, increased pain and increased stress hormones.

Lack of sleep will also put you at a higher risk of developing a weakened immune system, obesity, depression, anxiety, diabetes, infertility, and heart disease.

Skipping sleep can mess up your body’s internal clock and sleep pressure. Your internal clock is what makes you feel tired at night and awake and alert during the day. Sleep pressure is the feeling of tiredness that gets stronger the longer you stay awake. If you don’t sleep, you will continue to become more and more drowsy until you are finally able to sleep.

How to Survive the Day with Little to No Sleep

Whether you opt for a short power nap or don’t get any sleep at all, chances are you will wake up feeling exhausted. If you are trying to figure out how to be less tired after a night of hardly any sleep, here is the best advice.

When your alarm starts going off in the morning, do not hit snooze. This can be really hard to do, but you will feel way better if you don’t. Get out of bed, immediately turn your lights on, and open your curtains. Bright lights will be beneficial to helping you feel awake.

Sunlight is even better than artificial light. If you can, spend some time outside in the morning. Drink some coffee, relax, and let the sunlight warm your body. If you are looking for an extra boost of energy, get some exercise. Take a nice walk or do some yoga to get your mind and body moving. 

During the day, eat at your normal mealtimes. If you keep this part of your schedule on track, it will help your sleep schedule settle back into place as well.

Try to avoid foods that have tons of sugar or fat in them. You will definitely be craving them as this is an unfortunate effect of sleep deprivation. If you eat a ton of sugar, chances are you will experience a crash. Your body is already tired and won’t be able to help you properly work through that.

Drink your caffeine when you first get up. Try not to get too much, and make sure you stop drinking caffein in the early afternoon. If you drink too much throughout the day, you might end up extremely wired and experience yet another sleepless night.

If you are so exhausted there is no way you’ll make it through the day, take another nap if you can. If you do decide to take a nap, make sure to limit it to 30 minutes to avoid entering the stage of deep sleep.

Tips to Fall Asleep When You Only Have a Little Time

Relaxing is one of the most important factors of falling asleep. This can be a really hard thing to do if you’ve been awake all night already. So, what are some things you can try to fall asleep in a short period of time? Let’s take a look at a few.

Relax Your Body Step by Step

This can be extremely beneficial for getting yourself to fall asleep. Start with your feet, specifically your toes. Tense them for about 10 seconds, then release. Repeat this a few times until your toes feel relaxed.

Move on to your feet and ankles. Repeat the process of tensing for 10 seconds then releasing a few times. You can try to roll your ankles to loosen them up as well. After you are finished with your feet, move on to your knees.

After you have finished with your legs, move on to your hips. Continue to tense and release for 10 seconds at a time for just a few times. You can then move on to your stomach, then your chest.

One of the most important parts of your body to focus on during this exercise is your shoulders. Tense them up and release until you start to feel relaxed and less tense. Do the same thing for your neck. You can repeat this entire process as many times as you need until you fall asleep.


Another simple way to help your mind relax is to count backwards. You should start at an incredibly high number like 250,000. Make sure you count slowly and in a steady manner. Don’t let any other thought interrupt your counting. 

Starting from such a large number will make it easier for you to focus only on counting. That way it is less likely for any stressful thoughts to pop into your mind as you are trying to fall asleep. 

If you keep counting slow and steady, it probably won’t take you long to fall asleep. The goal is to not reach 0, so just focus on relaxing with the numbers in your mind and do not resist falling asleep to reach 0.

Focus on Your Breathing

Another simple way to relax enough to fall asleep is to focus on your breathing. Slow your breathing down and focus on the movement. When you breathe in, focus on breathing in. When you breathe out, focus on breathing out. If you need a word to focus on, try thinking “in” as you breathe in, and “out” as you breathe out.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sleep

Are there negative side effects to staying up all night?

Yes, there absolutely are negative side effects. Apart from feeling extremely tired, not getting enough sleep can also have some serious impact on your health. The more often you stay up all night, the higher your chances of developing a disease such as diabetes become.

Is it really better to get an hour of sleep than no sleep?

Getting any amount of sleep is better than no sleep at all. However, if you only sleep for an hour you might wake up in the middle of a sleep cycle resulting in an extra tired feeling. If possible, try to aim for ninety minutes of sleep to get through one full sleep cycle. You will feel more rested this way. If you truly only have an hour and can’t squeeze in an extra thirty minutes, it will be more beneficial to take a quick twenty-minute nap to prevent entering a deep sleep.

What if I am having a hard time falling asleep?

There are several things you can do to relax your body to help you fall asleep. At the very least, if you don’t fall asleep you will feel super relaxed and your muscles will feel less tense. One thing you can do is tense and loosen your muscles for a few times. You can also count backwards from a seriously high number to get yourself sleepy. Focusing on your breathing can also help you relax enough to fall asleep.

A Final Word From Wellness Nova

If you had to stay up all night, or if you just couldn’t sleep, you might be wondering if it is a good idea to sneak in an hour of sleep before you have to get up and start your day. Any kind of sleep is better than no sleep, but it will be better for you to try to get a full sleep cycle in, which is about ninety minutes, to ensure that you feel as rested as possible. It is important to get at least seven hours of sleep on a regular basis, as this amount of time will allow your body to get enough rest to reboot and refresh.

Article by:

Wellness Nova Team

Our detailed review has been contributed to by multiple members of the Wellness Nova Review Team to ensure the best research and highest standard of quality. Have a good or a bad experience with one of the products? Please let us know, we love the feedback!

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