The eight-hour sleep is believed to be the ultimate night rest. As a consequence we freak out when we lie awake in the middle of the night, and try to enforce our deserved sleep by drinking herbal teas or red wine and taking sleeping pills. But according to the last sleep-related news story reported by the BBC, sleeping eight hours in one solid stretch may be unnatural.
It seems that for centuries, we happily woke up in the middle of the night. We were accustomed to the idea of “first sleep” which began about two hours after dusk, followed by a waking period of one or two hours and then a second sleep. This waking period was often used for prayer, smoking tobacco, writing, or to visit the neighbors. According to the BBC, “a doctor’s manual from 16th century France even advised couples that the best time to conceive was not at the end of a long day’s labour but “after the first sleep”, when “they have more enjoyment” and “do it better”.”
But the idea of two sleeps started to disappear during the late 17th century, when “night became fashionable and spending hours lying in bed was considered a waste of time.” By the 1920’s it was practically obsolete, due to improvements in street lighting, domestic lighting and a surge in coffee houses – which were sometimes open all night.
Today, most people seem to have adapted to the idea of the solid eight-hour sleep. As confirmed by a recent study into the perfect night’s sleep, in which all participants mastered the art of getting a good undisturbed sleep every single night of the week. According to the poll, achieving a perfect night’s sleep is definitely a case of discipline: Enjoy a nice cup of tea at 9:10, go to bed at exactly 10pm while wearing pajamas (!) and lie on the right side of the bed with your partner “cuddled into your back”. The following morning, wake at a respectable 6:47am to the sound of your alarm clock. A bit of routine and you are guaranteed of a wonderful night’s sleep.
Good luck with it.
Photo via minddisorders / Alex Bramwell