Why 8 Hours Of Uninterrupted Sleep Each Night Might Not Be As Great As You Remember
Of course you blame your kid for waking you up at midnight and not letting you go back to sleep for hours. Little did you know that, up until the 19th century, that’s pretty much what everyone did, kid or not. What’s more, experts suspect that the modern, “consolidated” sleep schedule you think you miss so badly might be less than ideal.
History professor Roger Ekirch pointed out in a 2001 paper that renowned authors like Homer, Chaucer, Austen, Dickens, and Tolstoy made references in their work to a first and second sleep. The time in between allowed for people to meditate, take time for themselves, check on sick family members, do chores for the next days and even have sex. One 16th century French doctor went as far as to argue that sex between sleeps would key for couples hoping to conceive, because during this time people “enjoy it more and do it better.” These views were later endorsed by several British physicians. So it sounds like your spouse could use some “segmented sleep,” too, if you’re picking up what the good French Doctor is throwing down.
But don’t go waking your spouse up every night so you can both enjoy some “self reflection” just yet, because for that to work you might have to forgo electricity. In 1992, psychiatrist Thomas Wehrfound that when people lived in darkness for 14 hours a day for only a month, they fell into a more fragmented sleep pattern. Artificial light has a “profound impact on the human body clock,” says Wehr, and your house is full of it.
Then again, even if you did smash all your light bulbs, you know what else has a profound impact on your body clock? That tiny screaming human who wakes you up each night and keeps you from reading — let alone writing — War And Peace.