However, let’s be real here – how often do you really achieve this type of bliss? For many of us, we’re lucky if manage to wake up feeling semi-functional in the morning.
After we have come home from work, cooked dinner, helped the kids with their homework, tidied the house, we often want at least an hour of me time, This typically pushes our bedtime back to around midnight, and though we’re exhausted by that point, that doesn’t stop our racing mind from waking us up at points during the night.
However, what if we told you that you might be working against your body’s natural rhythm by forcing yourself to sleep in one 8-hour period?
Roger Ekrich, a historian and author, in his book “At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past, gives his readers a mammoth 500 references of civilizations, from ancient to living, that practice what he calls “segmented sleep.”
While this was and still is seen all over the world among distinct societies, there are a few differences when it comes to the nitty-gritty. For example, Ekrich found that segmented sleep almost always looks the same – it begins with a subject going to bed about two hours after dusk (this is the first sleep), then they wake up in the middle of the night for one or two hours (this is the waking period), and then the subject goes back to sleep for several more hours (this is the second sleep).
Early records have shown that the “waking period” between “first” and “second sleep” was a time that was often used for unwinding and leisure. In fact, 16th-century French physicians urged couples who were trying to conceive to have intercourse after they wake up from the first sleep, as the body is much more relaxed and rejuvenated following some sleep.
Ekrich’s research shows that segmented sleep was pretty much “put to bed” in the West by the turn of the 20th century. This is probably due to multiple factors, including the implementation of the modern 9-5 workday, as well as 19th century doctors urging parents not to wake children if they don’t naturally wake up after a “first sleep.”
This is an interesting concept, and one that we think can work well for some people. Who knows? Maybe in the future, doctors will start prescribing “first” and “second” sleep to their patients. Considering that an estimated 164 million Americans have struggled with insomnia at some point in their lives, it’s apparent that our ancestors went about this nightly ritual in a much better way.