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Elves need to meditate 4 hours a day to be in shape according to the PHB.

Trance: Elves do not need to sleep. Instead, they meditate deeply for 4 hours a day. (The Common word for such meditation is “trance.”) While meditating, you can dream after a fashion; such dreams are actually mental exercises that have become reflexive through years of practice. After resting in this way, you gain the same benefit that a human does from 8 hours of sleep.

But must those 4 hours/day be consecutive?

Some underlying questions are:

  • If elves have to meditate 4 hours consecutively to gain any benefit, this means that if someone wakes you up after 3 hours and 59 minutes, they have to start it all over?

  • If the trance is part of a long rest, do elves have to meditate at least 4 hours within a period of 8 hours to gain benefits and can those 4 hours be separated? (Whether the Long Rest is over or not after said 4 hours is not relevant here and was already answered: Is 4 hours long enough for a long rest for Elves and Warforged?)

  • If meditating is done only as the equivalent of sleeping and has nothing to do with Long Rests, could an elf sleep an hour in the morning, two after lunch and one final hour in the evening and stand watch all night? (Possibly skipping a Long Rest).

Am I forgeting something?

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The answer you linked answers your question as well.

A: If an elf meditates during a long rest (as described in the Trance trait), the elf finishes the rest after only 4 hours. A meditating elf otherwise follows all the rules for a long rest; only the duration is changed. This answer has been altered as a result of a tweak to the rules for a long rest, which appears in newer printings of the Player’s Handbook.

Long Rest Ruling:

A long rest is a period of extended downtime, at least 8 hours long, during which you sleep or perform light activity: reading, talking, eating, or standing watch for no more than 2 hours of the rest period.

To be more specific, the 2017 Errata makes it very clear that the light activities are included in the "no more than 2 hours".

A long rest is a period of extended downtime, at least 8 hours long, during which a character sleeps for at least 6 hours and performs no more than 2 hours of light activity, such as reading, talking, eating, or standing watch.

The first quote states that the at least 8 hours long is the only thing changed, meaning that the second emphasized part remains the same.

The Trancing should follow the same rules as a Long Rest in which the sleeping takes 4 hours. Everything else is unchanged.

So, for your questions:

  • No. He can be doing something during 2 of these 4 hours. These 2 hours don't need to be consecutive. Note that if you use the 2 hours, the long rest will take 6 hours (2 of light activities + 4 of "sleeping"), the way I read it.
  • I don't see how this is different from the previous and next question. But no, it's not in a period of 8 hours.
  • No, just like the long rest, it can be interrupted by a max of 2 hours of light activities and by a max of 1 hour of adventuring activities, as stated in the PHB:

    If the rest is interrupted by a period of strenuous activity—at least 1 hour of walking, fighting, casting spells, or similar adventuring activity— the characters must begin the rest again to gain any benefit from it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Does DnD-5e not have any other rules specifically governing sleep (rather than long rests in general) for non-elves? According to those rules, you could talk/eat/read for 8 hours every night and spend none of the time sleeping. It makes (some) sense that you can do that during the day and regain spells. Is it just up to the players / DM to make sure characters get enough actual sleep during the Long Rests they take? \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes Apr 24 '18 at 8:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ point2: Trancing is not necessarily a long rest. If you do 4h, sure. But as you point out, they can do 2h of light activity, making trancing indeed a part of a rest. You also do not answer if those 2hs can be taken in, say, 10min intervals or must be consecutive. \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Apr 24 '18 at 8:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes If you do not sleep properly, you gain exhaustion points. Though, yes, you can take a long rest without sleeping. \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Apr 24 '18 at 8:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Szega: Thanks. It seems odd to me that this answer doesn't mention the mismatch with the Trance trait saying you gain the same benefit that a human does from 8 hours of sleep. (not Long Rest, but sleep specifically). An Elf that stood watch for 2 hours and tranced for 2 hours per night would be like a human getting 4h per night, not 6, if it accumulates linearly. This seems worth mentioning. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes Apr 24 '18 at 8:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast The Sage Advice after the errata might help. Both the tweet by Crawford and the previous SA were replaced by this. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Apr 24 '18 at 16:18

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