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WiccanLiberal
10-03-2015, 01:59 PM
I was reading other threads and saw a comment that a member's spouse was inclined to be awake at odd times and just continued whatever they were doing. Forgive me if I paraphrase or misstate. Anyway, I thought of this article I read a while ago and thought I would share it in the face of my current sleep woes.
Your Ancestors Didn’t Sleep Like YouOk, 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 HistoryThe existence of our sleeping twice per night was first uncovered by Roger Ekirch, professor of History at Virginia Tech.
His research found (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16964783) 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 (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/23/opinion/sunday/rethinking-sleep.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0&ref=general=all&src=me), 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 (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0393329011/?tag=slumberwise-20) 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 (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0521721067/?tag=slumberwise-20). 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 ScienceTwo 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 (http://www.nytimes.com/1995/03/14/science/modern-life-suppresses-an-ancient-body-rhythm.html?scp=6&sq=dr%20thomas%20wehr&st=cse&pagewanted=all), 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’scommon among modern people (http://slumberwise.com/health/the-top-3-hidden-risks-of-too-little-sleep/). 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 (http://jdmoyer.com/2010/03/04/sleep-experiment-a-month-with-no-artificial-light/) “…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 (http://slumberwise.com/science/can-you-thrive-with-only-five-hours-of-sleep-a-night/) 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.


UpdateWell 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.
Commenters also raised questions regarding non-European and non-Western cultures, which we’ll be digging into in future articles. For anyone who wants to learn more about this kind of sleep, I’ve linked below to two books referenced in the writing of this article, available on Amazon.

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

Gunny
10-03-2015, 02:09 PM
All that. I got one word for you about my sleep patterns: SPAZ. I'm all over the place. I just gave up trying to figure it out.:laugh:

WiccanLiberal
10-03-2015, 02:17 PM
V4R has to live with the walking sleep disorder. Up to my 20's I slept just fine although, as a night shifter, I generally slept days. I still felt like I was sleeping well and was rested. My 30's marked a change. Lots of nightmares and interrupted sleep. Then later, sleep apnea was diagnosed. My poor suffering SO has had to deal with screaming nightmares, sleep talking and sleepwalking. I have complete conversations about my pet goat, Edgar. One night I woke up in the living room with my cleaver in hand, V4R said I told him I was killing zombies and hid my kitchen knives for the rest of the night. If I fall asleep, I generally can't seem to get back to sleep right away if awakened. Maybe this article explains why. Having rediscovered this, I may just try and relax a bit more about it.

Gunny
10-03-2015, 02:21 PM
Sounds a bit like me. I almost lost my clearance for talking in my sleep and big mouth ex. I don't sleep walk anymore. Got the nightmare crap though. Since the Gulf War. Haven't slept right since. If you look, a lot of my posts are between 12 and 4 AM.

I can understand.

WiccanLiberal
10-03-2015, 11:05 PM
I don't think I'd mind the nightmares so much if the sleepwalking and acting out didn't go with it. I am afraid I'll walk out the door one night.

Gunny
10-03-2015, 11:33 PM
I don't think I'd mind the nightmares so much if the sleepwalking and acting out didn't go with it. I am afraid I'll walk out the door one night.

I'd rather sleepwalk. And I would rather walk into the damned wall than have nightmares. I think most vets would agree with me.

WiccanLiberal
10-04-2015, 12:17 AM
Problem is I seem to act all mine out. That's the reason I can't watch Walking Dead before bed.

Gunny
10-04-2015, 12:30 AM
Problem is I seem to act all mine out. That's the reason I can't watch Walking Dead before bed.

I hear ya. But when we act ours out something gets broken. I can't watch war movies at all. The ones we had have all "disappeared". Last thing I need's a zombie show. :laugh: I watch old b&w junk. Crap, I get worked up watching NCIS because Gibbs is a Gunny and whoever the technical consultant is knows his junk. He acts exactly like a Gunny. Right down to the coffee. Don't f- with my damned coffee nor touch my cup. Might as well raise a flag and declare war. :laugh:

I wish I could just go to bed. If a ant crawls on the porch I'm up with a knife.

indago
10-04-2015, 08:05 AM
I hear ya. But when we act ours out something gets broken. I can't watch war movies at all. The ones we had have all "disappeared". Last thing I need's a zombie show. :laugh: I watch old b&w junk. Crap, I get worked up watching NCIS because Gibbs is a Gunny and whoever the technical consultant is knows his junk. He acts exactly like a Gunny. Right down to the coffee. Don't f- with my damned coffee nor touch my cup. Might as well raise a flag and declare war. :laugh:

I wish I could just go to bed. If a ant crawls on the porch I'm up with a knife.

http://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/tinytoons/images/3/36/Yosemite-sam.gif/revision/latest?cb=20101115213657

tailfins
10-04-2015, 09:35 AM
The thing that keeps me awake is unfinished business. For example, the existing code was writing raw HTML to a text file. Just after laying down to sleep it dawned on my how much simpler reporting would be if you just wrote the content to a SQL server and use SSRS for report design. I got up and sent and email to my boss. I was then able to drift off to sleep.