A Truly Normal Sleep Schedule

March 3, 2012 in Daily Bulletin, Signature


Stephanie Hegarty at the BBC reports on a growing body of research that suggests an eight hour block of unbroken sleep is abnormal and counter to natural human behaviour. Some of the things she found include:

  • Evidence suggests that the natural human sleeping pattern is an eight hour sleep phase broken up into two parts by a period of wakefulness that lasts for up to two hours in between periods of sleep.
  • Before the 1500s the phrases “first sleep” and “second sleep” were part of the common lexicon suggesting that it was once the norm for people to sleep in two distinct phases.
  • In this two hour period of wakefulness people were moderately active, using the time to read, write, smoke, talk, pray and have sex.
  • There are several theories as to why this changed. Most of them involve the increasing popularity of using the night for ‘productive’ purposes, meaning that staying awake doing ‘nothing’ was considered a waste of time. The rise of street lights, all-night coffee shops, and legitimate night-time activities made staying up at night – and thus compressing your sleep schedule into one monolithic block – fashionable.

To read about other practices that individuals engaged in after first sleep, expanded theories into why this all changed, and the implications this has for how we handle our sleep click here.

Source: BBC News

Via: Austin Frakt at The Incidental Economist