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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.
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. “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. Moyer writes “…I would go to bed really early, like , and then get up around am.
Ok, maybe your grandparents probably slept like you. 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. The existence of our sleeping twice per night was first uncovered by Roger Ekirch, professor of History at Virginia Tech.
But next time you wake up at 2 AM and can’t sleep, just remember your great, great, great, great, great grandfather. I would encourage new visitors to have a read through the comments below for some interesting ideas and perspectives. 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.
What is surprising is not that people slept in two sessions, but that the concept was so incredibly common.