I read an article a week, maybe two weeks ago, about a study conducted on the nature of sleep — with a regard to literary references of sleep and sleeping. In particular, the study spoke of “two sleeps” — an initial period of sleep lasting approximately four hours, and then a short break, followed by a “second sleep.”

One of the things that apparently helped spark interest in the study was the recurring reference to a “second sleep,” as though there were always two. The study suggested that before the advent of cheap, reliable household and street lighting, darkness was more inhibiting to nocturnal activities. But it can stay dark for quite a long time…

And so the idea that people (at least in certain parts of the world) may have slept in “shifts,” lasting about four hours apiece and separated by an hour or two of light activity — isn’t so difficult to believe. Not everyone can sleep twelve hours straight every night after all. Sometimes sleeping so long is as exhausting as staying awake.

Fourth Edition Dungeons & Dragons has some of the better rules for resting of the tabletop roleplaying games I’ve played — separating rests into “short” and “extended” periods that enable players to recover encounter and daily resources respectively.

Recently the question came up in my group (a couple weeks ago at this point), as to how often characters could take an extended rest. A couple of us knew it was twelve hours between extended rests, but I couldn’t remember how I knew.

Though it became obvious the rule was right in the Player’s Handbook — limit one extended rest per day, minimum twelve hours between rest periods — the question about the limitation stuck with me for some reason. And so I thought about it.

There’s a topic of discussion found among Character Optimization groups that references the “fifteen minute workday.” I’ll admit that I’ve only experienced the phenomena recently (within the last few years), in Fourth Edition.

Now I’ve never had a problem slogging through encounters without access to my character’s daily resources, or making the hard decision to halt a quest when it became too difficult to proceed without help — apparently it’s really common for a group to just stop in the middle of their adventure to sleep for eight hours.

Of course I have a problem with this because it sounds ridiculous. Especially in the middle of a dungeon or some other hostile environment where there’s nowhere safe for the party to stop, let alone sleep for eight hours at a time.

But then I started to wonder if maybe there wasn’t something wrong with how resources work to begin with — daily resources like healing surges and attack powers are sometimes vital to the party’s success, and yet each recharge is a minimum of eighteen hours away — that’s a little unreasonable when you think about it.

So I had a couple of ideas for how to address this: first is to decrease the number of daily resources characters rely on in combat. That seems like a no-brainer. The more fights they can face without rest, the less they feel like they need to rest.

Second, reduce the amount of time the characters spend resting — my idea here is to reduce 6-8 hour extended rests to a mere 4 hours — and also reduce the amount of time spent waiting for the next extended rest — from twelve hours to two.

Finally, find incentives for the party to rest. I think the rest system would be a great way to tie in non-combat activities like elaborate feasts, combat training, spell research and other information-gathering, item creation, and complex rituals.

I’ll see if I can find a way to codify non-combat activities and ways to tie them into rests (short and extended), and post my results here.