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The Long Rest rules read:

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. If the rest is interrupted by a strenuous activity—such as attacking, taking damage, or casting a spell—you must start the rest over to gain any benefit from it, unless the interruption takes less than an hour. You must have at least 1 hit point to take a long rest. At the end of the rest, you regain all your hit points and half of your maximum number of Hit Dice (round up). You cannot benefit from more than one long rest in a 24-hour period.

The elven Trance racial trait reads as:

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.

I have heard two views regarding these rules:

  • An Elf can get the benefit of a Long Rest in only 4 hours.
  • The 4 hours only applies to not being exhausted, 8 hours is still required get the benefits of a Long Rest.

Which is it? Please provide supporting information, possibly from previous versions.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I expect the rules to change to read "half a long rest" rather than 4 hours. Since long rest and short rest will become "dials" which can change from game to game. \$\endgroup\$ – GMNoob Jun 9 '14 at 14:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ I have removed the warforged part of this question because 1) it is a different question and should be asked as its own question 2) none of the answers addressed it (including your accepted answer) in any detail in the 5 years since this was posted. 3) the warforged which was in UA at the time is now released so any new answers with that information would not be relevant here anyways. If you are still interested in the answer to that, please ask it as a new question. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Mar 15 at 14:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure what the protocol on updating old questions is. Should the original question be updated to reflect the current wording in the errata, or do we provide the original question unedited as historical record? \$\endgroup\$ – Guy Mar 18 at 23:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm a bit confused also. Someone edited my question to remove the part about Warforged, which was kind of the original intent of asking. \$\endgroup\$ – Aaron Mar 19 at 23:34
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An elf receives the benefits of a long rest in 4 hours while using the "Trance" trait.

According to the 2017 update to the Sage Advice Compendium:

Q: Does the Trance trait allow an elf to finish a long rest in 4 hours?

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.

This ruling reverses guidance in the earlier version of the SAC, due to errata changing the rules for long rests.

Interactions between "Trance" and "Long Rest"

A long rest is defined as:

... 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.

Trance is defined as:

Elves don’t need to sleep. Instead, they meditate deeply, remaining semiconscious, 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.

Since the "Trance" trait replaces the need for sleep (which most races need in order to complete a Long Rest), the elf is able to satisfy the requirements of the Long Rest while in a semiconscious trance for four hours.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ A friend of mine just recently (today, June 6 2019) asked WotC about this and they sent him the 2015 Sage Advise link that still says trance is only equivalent to sleep. \$\endgroup\$ – Jason_c_o Jun 6 at 18:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jason_c_o HA! That amuses me. :) He should send them the updated sage advice compendium link. But they are just human, and I imagine it is difficult to have a knowledge base as comprehensive as it needs to be for things like this. \$\endgroup\$ – Guy Jun 6 at 20:30
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I wrote my original answer in April 2015. More than 2 years later, the rules changed. While I am annoyed, I actually prefer the new rules as they sidestep the issue and just make sense.

To summarize: Now a long rest means 8 hours without exertion, of which 6 must be spent sleeping. And a completed 4-hour elvish trance explicitly counts as a long rest.

(Original answer follows.)


Resting is not the same as sleeping. The rules make no effort to encourage that distinction, but they're unambiguous on it.

A rest is a period of downtime. When you reach 8 hours, you get the many benefits of a long rest. You're limited to a single one every 24 hours, though.

For humans and most player races, the benefits of 8 hours of sleep are as follow:

  • resetting the countdown to exhaustion from lack of sleep

That's all. Elves get that "same benefit" in 4 hours of trance (and Warforged in their 4-hour "sleep-like state"). If they're gonna trance as part of a long rest, they can stay fully alert the other 4 hours.

The source of the (widespread) confusion is clear: for most races, both sleeping and resting take 8 hours of downtime and are once-a-day things. Since 8 hours of sleep also fulfil long rest requirements, you might as well always combine the two.


There's almost no official information about sleep in the books. As stated by the question asker, you can sleep during a long rest and a handful of races can fake a night of sleep in half the normal time. There's also the sleep status effect, irrelevant here. And funnily, a tent has stats even though sleep itself doesn't. So we have to induce the designers' intentions from almost nothing.

Lack of sleep "might" call for a constitution check:

Constitution checks: [...] The DM might call for a Constitution check when you try to accomplish tasks like the following: hold your breath; march or labor for hours without rest; go without sleep; survive without food or water; [...].

Most of the other problems on that list cause exhaustion:

Forced March: The Travel Pace table assumes that characters travel for 8 hours in day. They can push on beyond that limit, at the risk of exhaustion. For each additional hour of travel beyond 8 hours, [...] each character must make a Constitution saving throw at the end of the hour. [...] On a failed saving throw, a character suffers one level of exhaustion.

Food and Water: Characters who don’t eat or drink suffer the effects of exhaustion. Exhaustion caused by lack of food or water can’t be removed until the character eats and drinks the full required amount.

The designers' intention is probably that the DM call for constitution checks when he feels players have gone without sleep "long enough". We can infer from exhaustion from lack of food or water that exhaustion from lack of sleep can only be remedied by sleeping off the sleep deficit.

The fourth edition of D&D had similar sleep and rest rules, but they were slightly more specific, so let's check them out:

Rest and Recovery: [...] At least 6 hours long, an extended rest includes relaxation, sometimes a meal, and usually sleep.

Sleeping and Waking Up: You need at least 6 hours of sleep every day to keep functioning at your best. If, at the end of an extended rest, you haven’t slept at least 6 hours in the last 24, you gain no benefit from that extended rest.

Interruptions: If anything interrupts your extended rest, such as an attack, add the time spent dealing with the interruption to the total time you need to spend in the extended rest.

Keeping Watch: Adventurers typically take turns keeping watch while their companions sleep. If five characters are in your group, each of you can take a turn on watch duty for 1½ hours and sleep for 6 hours, so that you spend a total of 7½ hours resting.

Clearly, even though they were easy to combine, sleep and extended rests were distinct! Sleep could even be split up, unlike rest, and its lack had no penalty other than preventing extended rests. Still, eladrin (high elves) seem to contradict those rules:

Trance: Rather than sleep, eladrin enter a meditative state known as trance. You need to spend 4 hours in this state to gain the same benefits other races gain from taking a 6-hour extended rest.

It appears the (widespread) confusion is much older than we thought!

As for earlier editions, I think they had sleep itself as the standard long-term recovery mechanic.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Don't signal your edits in text. You should edit your answer to stand as if it were always the best version of itself; rather than leaving in an inaccurate portion of your answer unchanged, you should either edit it out, or explain more naturally how the rules used to work pre-errata and how the errata changed them. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mar 12 at 0:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Nov 2 at 22:50
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Recent Errata has sheds further light on the issue.

The PHB errata Update from 08/31/2017

Long Rest (p. 186). The first sentence of the rule now reads, “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.” In addition, you regain at least one Hit Die when you finish a long rest.

Additionally, while not Errata, the Sage Advice Compendium has updated its guidance on the Trance trait to account for the new Long Rest rules wording.

Does the Trance trait allow an elf to finish a long rest in 4 hours? 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.]

Elves Can complete a long rest in 4 hours, warforged need 8 hours, but less sleep

If you follow this advice from the game designer than I would have Elves be able to complete a long rest in 4 hours if they spend it in a trance with all the other normal rules for long rest applying (except sleeping 6 hours).

Warforged still need to rest for the full 8 hour period, but they can sleep for only 4 hours in their sleep-mode vs 6 hours races other than elves require.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I assume you're referring to the warforged from the very first UA on Eberron? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Nov 2 at 22:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast Yes, this was back from when the PHB was just published and the first few UA articles came out. \$\endgroup\$ – Joshua Aslan Smith Nov 4 at 16:04
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It can be interpreted either way. Choose whichever way you think works best for your game. One of the great things, and worst things, about 5e is its ambiguous approach to most rules.

Personally, I stick with the RAW interpretation of a long rest meaning that a long rest is 8 hours and that sleep, while a part of a long rest, isn't a long rest in and of itself. For me, the 'Trance' simply allows the elf more downtime during a long rest. Whereas another party member can sleep for 6 hours (I use 6 as a minimum to avoid exhaustion) and have 2 hours for low-key activity such as watch, an elf can 'sleep' for 4 hours (during which they're still partially conscious for BTW… in my opinion, a very important and beneficial aspect of Trance) and have 4 hours for low-key activity such as watch. This means that an elf can help fill out watch rotations in a smaller party or can pick up any slack should another party member be unable to take their watch or whatever.

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This is a really tough topic for me to rule on. Because, if a character sleeps for eight hours straight, and doesn't bother with a watch, they would get a long rest.

So, if we are going by the literal wording of the book, then Elves should have the exact same benefits as those other races. People can say that there is a difference between sleeping and taking a rest, but honestly I'd say that is someone's way of skirting around what is written. If you do believe this gives Elves an unfair advantage then just edit the ruling as a GM, don't go out and say ridiculous things like resting is different from sleeping. Sure more activities can be done during a long rest, but if a character was sleeping the whole time he/she would still gain the benefit of a long rest.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to rpg.se! Please take a look at the tour, it's a useful introduction to the site. \$\endgroup\$ – Luris May 5 '17 at 8:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to rpg.se! I want to explain you some things, which may help to better understand why your answer is downvoted. First: I'd like to address your points: resting vs sleeping - well, "by the book" distinction is explicitly stated. Moreover as accepted answer shows: it's supported by designers. \$\endgroup\$ – RollingFeles May 5 '17 at 10:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ Second: I feel this answer sound just like opinion. Question was about the rules, but you may share your insight based and supported by your experience. With arguments why it worked for you better, than the others options. This post may give you more information about site's policy about examples of experience expected with such answers. \$\endgroup\$ – RollingFeles May 5 '17 at 10:10

protected by Oblivious Sage Mar 31 '18 at 16:33

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