Fun Fact February 7, 2020
7 February 2020
How have you been sleeping lately? Before the 1800s, people had what was known as a “first” and “second sleep.” Anthropologists have found evidence that during pre-industrial Europe, bi-modal sleeping was considered normal. The time to sleep was note determined by a set bedtime, but by whether there were things to do. In his book “At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past,” Historian A. Roger Ekirch describes how households of past times went to bed a couple of hours after dusk, woke a few hours later for one to two hours, and then had a second sleep until dawn. During this waking period, people would relax, ponder their dreams, or have sex. Some would engage in activities like sewing, chopping wood, or reading, relying on the light of the moon or oil lamps. Ekirch found references to the first and second sleep started to disappear during the late 17th century. Interestingly, the appearance of sleep maintenance insomnia in the literature in the late 19th century coincides with the period where accounts of split sleep start to disappear. Today’s society doesn’t allow for a split sleep schedule, so we have to conform to today’s sleep/wake schedules. It is generally thought a continuous 7 to 9-hour unbroken sleep is probably best for feeling refreshed. What about naps? There is growing evidence suggesting naps can have important benefits for memory and learning, increasing our alertness and improving mood states. Some believe sleep disorders, like insomnia, are rooted in the body’s natural preference for split sleep. Therefore, split sleep schedules may be a more natural rhythm for some people.
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