In which we’re pondering sleep

Have you seen this article on two-part sleep? A history professor at Virginia Tech–Roger Ekirch–has discovered that our habit of sleeping a full night through is not exactly how our ancestors did it. From his research he’s determined that people used to sleep three or four hours, wake for a few hours, then go back to sleep until morning. He describes that interlude as a quiet time when folk might pray, check on livestock or sleeping children, have sex, or wander a little way down the road to gossip with a neighbor over a pipe. We’re so insistent upon getting our seven or eight hours of uninterrupted sleep that it’s become a billion-dollar industry. But what if we’re wrong? What if people who struggle with staying asleep embraced the two-part habit and used the time to putter quietly instead of ticking off the minutes they’re not slumbering? Ekirch blames the demise of the two-part sleep on the rise of electric lights, and I wonder what would happen if we returned to the soft glow of candlelight in the evening? I generally sleep quite well–a straight nine hours. But for those times I do wake in the middle of the night, this article is a welcome reminder that I’m not doing it wrong! What about you, chickens? How do you sleep?


2 thoughts on “In which we’re pondering sleep”

  1. Libby Dodd says:

    I recall reading something about that in-between time that referred to it a the wolf hour, or some such. Does anyone know the reference?

  2. Suzanne says:

    I have heard it called “the land between asleep and awake.” Some people are up on their feet as soon as their brain becomes semi-conscious. I like to lay there and enjoy the land between asleep and awake. I do some of my best creative thinking during that time.

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