References all the way back to Homer’s Odyssey show that people used to sleep in two distinct four-hour phases, interrupted by a one to two hour period of being awake. Researchers say modern society with its electricity and active nightlife has altered the understanding of a good night’s sleep.

22 February 2012 Last updated at 11:58 ET By Stephanie Hegarty BBC World Service We often worry about lying awake in the middle of the night – but it could be good for you. A growing body of evidence from both science and history suggests that the eight-hour sleep may be unnatural.

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