Do Brothers Get Enough Sleep?

Many religious communities have to say the Liturgy of the Hours every day (to my knowledge) generally, but the Invitatory is at 3 AM (or dawn) with Compline being at 9 pm.
This is 6 hours, and as Compline takes time, it is less than 6 hours likely.
But we are supposed to get ~7-8 to even 9 hours of sleep a night, and continuing to lack sleep can result in lowered cognitive ability.
And some people just really need 8 hours.

So essentially the question is, do these people get enough sleep? How does that work?

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I’m sure for them they do get enough sleep. Prayer like the LOTH is very peaceful soothing and it calms their souls and brings health to their bodies.

I would also imagine that, as they have far less stress in their lives than the average lay person, they need less sleep.

I typically function with 5-6 hours of sleep per night, but even if that’s not enough, the monastic schedule allows leisure time and relaxation to adjust. I’ve kept the typical schedule on retreats (but it’s somewhat less feasible at home with children). It’s really no more complicated or sleep depriving than a typical office worker’s schedule.

When I was in the monastery, Compline ended about 8:20 pm. We rose the next morning at 4:00 am. There was a short siesta time after None for those who wished to rest.

Some religious communities rise at midnight to pray Matins, and then go back to sleep until Lauds and mass the next morning.

Regarding life being less stressful in the monastery, that’s not actually true. Sure, except for the abbot/abbess (prior/prioress) they don’t have to worry about paying bills. But religious life – especially in a cloistered setting – requires a person to be strong both physically and mentally.

Living 24-7-365 with the same people with their wildly different personalities and idiosyncrasies can be exceedingly challenging.


Actually (and please forgive me because I. Not sure where to cite this!–I read a couple articles on it a couple years back), there is some question as to whether people need 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Basically it’s this way–
Scholars have noticed that when you read old literature and manuscripts, there are repeated references to people going to bed fairly early, waking up in the middle of the night for a period of time than falling back to sleep until morning.

The theory is this–that before electric lights, it got dark early, homes were very dark when they were lit only by fireplaces and oil lamps, so people would go to bed around six or seven . They would wake up somewhat refreshed in he middle of the night, maybe use the time for prayer, or thought, or quiet times or making love or whatever, then fall back to sleep until sunrise.

This theory hasn’t gained a lot of traction yet, but there seems to be something to it.
I suppose you could observe the Stone Age cultures that still exist and find out if this is their typical sleep pattern…


I was taught in an ALL BOYS Catholic HS Boarding school; and can assure that these Brother of Holy Cross were NOT sleep deprived in the four years I attended there.



That’s quite a bit more reasonable

That was my first thought when I read the question. The order found in monasteries would have worked with natural rhythms found in nature not against it.

I was going to make the same point that Scarlett did-- about bimodal sleep.

Your Ancestors Didn’t Sleep Like You is one famous summary that’s made the rounds on FB and blogs.

The Long and Short of Bimodal Sleep is another good summary, which includes references from Chaucer and the Odyssey.

A lot of times, when I hear ads on the radio about “sleep studies” and “do you find yourself wakeful in the middle of the night” sort of problems, it reminds me of how, historically speaking, people generally didn’t sleep all the way through the night. I also suspect that contributes to why blind people are more likely to be susceptible to non-24-hour sleep cycles– they don’t get the stimulus from artificial lighting that sighted people get, and consequently, are more likely to naturally revert to more “primitive” (pre-electricity, pre-gaslight) rhythms of wakefulness and sleep.

I remember even as late as the 1930’s or 1940’s, I was reading a Dorothy Sayers story, where the servant blackmails the main character because “…I had just woken from my (first sleep? small sleep?) when I looked out the window and happened to see…” So, even within living memory, normal people were still keeping those wakefulness/sleep patterns as part of daily life.

So, I would suspect, in a religious community, your body would adapt pretty easily, as long as you didn’t stay up until midnight playing Farmville or reading your phone or something. :stuck_out_tongue: In the wintertime in my part of Texas, for example, sunset is around 5:20, and sunrise is around 7:20. So that’s about 14 hours of night. In a higher-latitude place like Boston or New York, you run into a 7:10 sunrise and a 4:15 sunset, which is almost 15 hours’ worth of night. So, if you imagine trying to sleep for 14-15 hours in the preindustrial world…! It would make sense, especially in certain times of the year, to break it up into multiple periods, get a little something done in between during the dark and the quiet, and then wander back to bed.


That’s all well and good, if these religious communities go back to sleep soon after.
But I don’t think they do…

Just curious why you’re so concerned about this?
Not everybody can handle the rigors of religious life, just like not everybody can handle the rigors of overnight shift.
And they’re free to quit.
But most people aren’t being forced to do either, so…

Different people need different amounts of sleep. I can function on very little sleep, although I prefer to have a lot of sleep. This is why it’s 2:30 a.m., almost and I’m still awake.

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