26th May 2016
Contributing writer for Wake Up World
Until recently, most of us just assumed that sleep is a nocturnal activity that naturally occurs in one long block. Today, largely thanks to historian and researcher Roger Ekrich, this long held assumption is being revisited. Ekirch published a study that examined hundreds of diaries, court records, and instructional manuals which demonstrated that, prior to the industrial revolution, most humans slept in two shorter blocks rather than one single large one. Based on his research, which found countless references to ‘first’ and ‘second’ sleeps, it appears that historically most people went to bed after dinner when the sun went down, slept for approximately 3-4 hours, then woke up for a couple of hours in the middle of the night, and then finally returned to sleep until dawn.
Two factors are believed to have influenced the shift from a multiple to a singular sleep session. The first is electric lighting, the second was the industrial revolution.