Author Topic: Your ancestors didn't sleep like you  (Read 6226 times)

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Offline Aura

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Your ancestors didn't sleep like you
« on: September 12, 2013, 11:29:43 pm »
Hi guys,
it has been a few nights I fall asleep early (around 18:30 - it is already dark over here) and then wake up, say at 23:00. Then I just cannot fall asleep again for 3 to 4 hours, finding myself in the mood of dancing, writing, my thoughts run smoothly, I am very creative. Finally, I go back to sleep at around 02 am and then wake up naturally at 6:30/07..

I was sincerely wondering if this pattern is to be considered "natural" and today I just found this article totally randomly..
Quote
Your ancestors didn't sleep like you

Ok, maybe your grandparents probably slept like you. And your great, great-grandparents. But once you go back before the 1800s, sleep starts to look a lot different. Your ancestors slept in a way that modern sleepers would find bizarre – they slept twice. And so can you.
The History

The existence of our sleeping twice per night was first uncovered by Roger Ekirch, professor of History at Virginia Tech.

His research found that we didn’t always sleep in one eight hour chunk. We used to sleep in two shorter periods, over a longer range of night. This range was about 12 hours long, and began with a sleep of three to four hours, wakefulness of two to three hours, then sleep again until morning.

References are scattered throughout literature, court documents, personal papers, and the ephemera of the past. What is surprising is not that people slept in two sessions, but that the concept was so incredibly common. Two-piece sleeping was the standard, accepted way to sleep.

“It’s not just the number of references – it is the way they refer to it, as if it was common knowledge,” Ekirch says.

An English doctor wrote, for example, that the ideal time for study and contemplation was between “first sleep” and “second sleep.” Chaucer tells of a character in the Canterbury Tales that goes to bed following her “firste sleep.” And, explaining the reason why working class conceived more children, a doctor from the 1500s reported that they typically had sex after their first sleep.

Ekirch’s book At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past is replete with such examples.

But just what did people do with these extra twilight hours? Pretty much what you might expect.

Most stayed in their beds and bedrooms, sometimes reading, and often they would use the time to pray. Religious manuals included special prayers to be said in the mid-sleep hours.

Others might smoke, talk with co-sleepers, or have sex. Some were more active and would leave to visit with neighbours.

As we know, this practice eventually died out. Ekirch attributes the change to the advent of street lighting and eventually electric indoor light, as well as the popularity of coffee houses. Author Craig Koslofsky offers a further theory in his book Evening’s Empire. With the rise of more street lighting, night stopped being the domain of criminals and sub-classes and became a time for work or socializing. Two sleeps were eventually considered a wasteful way to spend these hours.

No matter why the change happened, shortly after the turn of the 20th century the concept of two sleeps had vanished from common knowledge.

Until about 1990.
The Science

Two sleeps per night may have been the method of antiquity, but tendencies towards it still linger in modern man. There could be an innate biological preference for two sleeps, given the right circumstances.

In the early ‘90s, psychiatrist Thomas Wehr of National Institutes of Mental Health conducted a study on photoperiodicity (exposure to light), and its effect on sleep patterns.

In his study, fifteen men spent four weeks with their daylight artificially restricted. Rather than staying up and active the usual sixteen hours per day, they would stay up only ten. The other fourteen hours they would be in a closed, dark room, where they would rest or sleep as much as possible. This mimics the days in mid-winter, with short daylight and long nights.

At first, the participants would sleep huge stretches of time, likely making up for sleep debt that’s common among modern people. Once they had caught up on their sleep though, a strange thing started to happen.

They began to have two sleeps.

Over a twelve hour period, the participants would typically sleep for about four or five hours initially, then wake for several hours, then sleep again until morning. They slept not more than eight hours total.

The middle hours of the night, between two sleeps, was characterized by unusual calmness, likened to meditation. This was not the middle-of-the-night toss-and-turn that many of us experienced. The individuals did not stress about falling back asleep, but used the time to relax.

Russell Foster, professor of circadian neuroscience at Oxford, points out that even with standard sleep patterns, this night waking isn’t always cause for concern. “Many people wake up at night and panic,” he says. “I tell them that what they are experiencing is a throwback to the bi-modal sleep pattern.”

Outside of a scientific setting, this kind of sleep pattern is still attainable, but it does require changing our modern, electric lifestyle. Very cool person J. D. Moyer did just that. He and his family intentionally went an entire month with no electric light.

In the winter months, this meant a lot of darkness and a lot of sleep. Moyer writes “…I would go to bed really early, like 8:30, and then get up around 2:30am.  This was alarming at first, but then I remembered that this sleep pattern was quite common in pre-electric light days.  When this happened I would end up reading or writing by candlelight for an hour or two, then going back to bed.”

Moyer didn’t set out to reproduce our ancestors sleep pattern, it just happened as a byproduct of a lot of dark hours.
Should We Revive Two Sleeps?

Although history shows that two sleeping was common, and science indicates that it is (in some conditions) natural, there is no indication that it is better. Two sleeps may leave you feeling more rested, but this could simply be because you are intentionally giving yourself more time to rest, relax, and sleep. Giving the same respect to the single, eight-hour sleep should be just as effective.

Note too that two sleeping needs a lot of darkness – darkness that is only possible naturally during the winter months. The greater levels of daylight during summer and other seasons would make two sleeping difficult, or even impossible.

Perhaps two sleeping is merely a coping mechanism to get through the long, cold, boring nights of the winter. Today, we don’t need to cope. So long as we give our sleep the time and respect it needs, getting the “standard” eight hours of sleep should be fine.

But next time you wake up at 2 AM and can’t sleep, just remember your great, great, great, great, great grandfather. He did the same thing every night.
Update

Well this article proved exceedingly popular! Thank you to everyone who visited, or took the time to leave a comment. I would encourage new visitors to have a read through the comments below for some interesting ideas and perspectives. I learned two things in particular:

1. This is far more common that I thought. A lot of commenters either practice, or used to practice this kind of sleep.

2. Another possible reason for two sleeps is tending the fire during the night. Several clever readers noted that in order to keep a fire running through the night, we would need to get up and tend it.

http://slumberwise.com/science/your-ancestors-didnt-sleep-like-you/

Offline Aura

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Re: Your ancestors didn't sleep like you
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2013, 11:32:12 pm »
Makes sense to me.

What about your sleeping patterns guys?


Offline cherimoya_kid

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Re: Your ancestors didn't sleep like you
« Reply #2 on: September 13, 2013, 12:11:33 am »
when I've gone to bed early, this has happened to me plenty of times.

Offline Dr. D

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Re: Your ancestors didn't sleep like you
« Reply #3 on: September 13, 2013, 01:44:53 am »
I've done a lot more sleep experimentation than the average person.

-8-9 x 20 min naps only: definitely tough to do. IMO possible but not optimal. Quite stressful but there were aspects like falling asleep in 1 min that I kept for about a year after going back to "normal" sleep. Total 3 hours of sleep every 24 hour period.

-3x20 min naps with 3-4 hours at night. This was my short term fall back after the previous experiment and this was far more enjoyable and I figure without social restrictions and what not, you could easily gain many hours in a day this way with little to no side effects depending on who you are. Total sleep: ~4.5-5.5 hours a day.

-3x90 min naps: This was is almost perfect as there was no adaptation time (the others required a period of re-training that was grueling, about a week of terrible sleep deprivation) and while it took 15-20 min to wake back up, there was no issue with tiredness after you were awake. It utilizes your basic circadian cycles and you space out your naps based on how you feel. I also felt about once a week a full night of sleep helped replenish myself and feel more invigorated the rest of the time. Total sleep: 4.5 hours per day with one recharge at 8-10 hours.

Now I sleep "normally" with the occasional 20-30 min nap if I'm wore out. I read this very article somewhere along the lines of my sleep experimentation and was fascinated by it. Socially, it wouldn't work for me. My family is too active during that time and I wouldn't do anything during that mid-night period for 3-4 hours. Maybe it would make the daytime feel overall better? How do you feel Aura during the day when you have slept like that?

I have wanted to try this way of sleeping. I have always enjoyed polyphasic sleep and figure with my experience with it I will be able to raise a child no problem ;)
-Dustin

Trying to heal ADHD. Common symptoms: fatigue, impulsiveness, poor attention, no motivation.
Other side issues I'd like to get over: Acne, dandruff, tooth health (yellow, poor gums, gingivitis)

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We are all just doing the best we can, with what we know, at any given time.

Offline cherimoya_kid

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Re: Your ancestors didn't sleep like you
« Reply #4 on: September 13, 2013, 02:00:02 am »
... and figure with my experience with it I will be able to raise a child no problem ;)

Yeah, it's a good idea to reaaallly get caught up on your sleep before the baby is born. ROFL  You won't be sleeping much again until the baby is on some solid foods, in many cases.

Offline Aura

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Re: Your ancestors didn't sleep like you
« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2013, 02:39:31 am »
How do you feel Aura during the day when you have slept like that?

I found proper sleep to be EXTREMELY important for me.
If for one day I do not sleep at least my 7 hours, that is fine but already the day after I feel a bit tired and lazy..

I am pretty consistent with my habits, the latest I wake up is 08:00 am.. (which is VERY, very rare)

Anyway, to answer your question Dr. D, I should say I wake up energized, as if I slept with no interruptions, so far..
 ;)

Offline eveheart

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Re: Your ancestors didn't sleep like you
« Reply #6 on: September 13, 2013, 03:26:38 am »
I never heard about two sleeps per night, but I do it all the time. I fall asleep easily, wake up fully for a few hours and read or maybe do a load of laundry, and fall asleep easily until it's time to go to work. I never feel tired or run down, so I never worried about not sleeping through the night. This has happened to me for more than 40 years, so I guess it's the way I'm wired.
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Offline cherimoya_kid

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Re: Your ancestors didn't sleep like you
« Reply #7 on: September 13, 2013, 05:58:39 am »
I never heard about two sleeps per night, but I do it all the time. I fall asleep easily, wake up fully for a few hours and read or maybe do a load of laundry, and fall asleep easily until it's time to go to work. I never feel tired or run down, so I never worried about not sleeping through the night. This has happened to me for more than 40 years, so I guess it's the way I'm wired.

Hmm, interesting.


Offline goodsamaritan

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Re: Your ancestors didn't sleep like you
« Reply #8 on: September 13, 2013, 10:27:29 am »
Awesome. I need this. Being the workaholic that i am.

My father in law is like this.

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Offline LePatron7

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Re: Your ancestors didn't sleep like you
« Reply #9 on: September 13, 2013, 12:47:53 pm »
What about your sleeping patterns guys?

It depends on my work schedule. But typically I'd be asleep by 9-10pm, and I'd wake up around 6-8am.
Disclaimer: I was told I was misdiagnosed over 10 years ago, and I haven't taken any medication in over a decade.

Offline goodsamaritan

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Re: Your ancestors didn't sleep like you
« Reply #10 on: September 14, 2013, 06:49:14 am »
I just interviewed my 76 yr old father in law who grew up in the northern province of ilocos and they only started having electricity by the 1950s.  He vouches that indeed this 2 sleeps was the normal amongst adults.  The children usually slept through the night unless there was lots of moonlight.  With moonlight, children went out to play their childrens games like patintero or hide and seek. Then they went back to bed for their 2nd sleep.

My father in law grew up with this sleep schedule and has maintained this until today.  In fact he even does power naps after lunch.


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Offline aLptHW4k4y

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Re: Your ancestors didn't sleep like you
« Reply #11 on: September 14, 2013, 09:05:33 am »
I wake up around 7-8am irrelevant of when I go to sleep. This messes me up big time when I go to sleep late in the night. Same as Aura 7 hours minimum is essential, otherwise I get allergic, sensitive to light, tired, bad mood, etc. I don't set any alarms.

Offline jessica

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Re: Your ancestors didn't sleep like you
« Reply #12 on: September 14, 2013, 09:21:07 pm »
I am with yall on the 7+ hours thing.  Especially during healing times like right now, I feel excellent with around 9 hours of sleep.  I just go to bed pretty early, around 9 and wake up between 5 and 6.  Generally if I am awake during the hours of 11pm-5am I am one unhappy, sensitive individual, and it does affect my mental and physical acuity the next day.

There are times during the summer, when I am feeling really excellent and working outdoors, when I have taken naps around 2pm-4am and then wake up between 6pm and 8am and get back to work or life and then fall asleep around 11pm and wake up again from 5am-6am.  But that's pretty rare and really only during the longest and hottest days of summer.  That really has to do more with the heat and sun and never happens in the winter.  During the darker colder times of the year I am up and outside as long as the sun is up and tend to be outside in dark mornings and evenings a lot if its not too cold but always sleep through the night.  I also sleep more hours in the winter in general, especially depending on how far north I am living.     

I don't know, I think it's all cyclical, having to do with the seasons, where you live and overall health.  Sleep is so important for health and healing, its one of my most cherished times:)
« Last Edit: September 14, 2013, 11:59:43 pm by jessica »

Offline Aura

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Re: Your ancestors didn't sleep like you
« Reply #13 on: September 14, 2013, 10:17:51 pm »
Hi guys, great to hear your stories!
About me, well..I did it again! heh
It seems this pattern is becoming a daily routine..
I feel great!

Every night I wake up I am very focused and I have such a clarity of mind..
Thoughts run smoothly..

Last night I woke up at 2 am and felt like reading a book.
Went too late to sleep though.. at around 04 45.. Did not sleep much after, because at around 05 10 there is light already and looots of bird singing and I just "feel" it is time to get up..  :D

Offline Aura

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Re: Your ancestors didn't sleep like you
« Reply #14 on: September 14, 2013, 10:32:56 pm »
Oh and I d like to add that this morning I spoke with a friend here about this and he is also sleeping like that plus he knew a german family that woke up in the middle of the night sang some songs all together then back to sleep.. haha

That time in between seems to be the best time for creativity!

I confess I enjoyed very much  :P

Offline Iguana

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Re: Your ancestors didn't sleep like you
« Reply #15 on: September 14, 2013, 11:11:45 pm »
I never felt like having an activity in-between two sleeping periods during a night. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I get up, drink some water, go to the WC and feel like going to sleep again.

When I was trucking long distance, it was different. I stopped and laid down on the berth whenever I felt  too tired and sleepy. When it was better or necessary to drive in the night, then I slept whenever I could, be it day or night.

I used to transport live crayfish from Moldavia (then part of the USSR) non-stop to Paris and Ostende in Belgium. I took a friend with me as a second driver because we drove 24 h per day, stopping only at the borders for customs formalities. One night, I had to stop at the closed gate of a railway crossing in Romania. I almost instantly fell asleep on the driving wheel. My friend was also sleeping on the berth. When I woke up, it was day time and my truck was standing still in front of the open railway gate…! The other guy was still asleep too…  ;D

I’ve got other funny stories like that.  ;)
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Offline Barefoot Instincto

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Re: Your ancestors didn't sleep like you
« Reply #16 on: September 15, 2013, 12:40:10 am »
This was cool to learn about.

Last night I happened to fall asleep on the couch for 2 or 3 hours, and then woke up at 1 a.m. My ferrets wanted to run around a bit so I stayed up for 2 hours and read, then went back to sleep for 5 hours. Felt like a nice thing to try for the weekend.

 

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