Just yesterday I stumbled across a fascinating article on the BBC News website. It was after the Brit Music Awards and before the story of Nelson Mandella’s brief hospitalization. It talked about the science of sleep.
It pointed out reference after reference in literature written before the 1900s to a “first” and “second” sleep as if these were common knowledge; After four hours of sleep, people wake up for an hour or two. They get a snack, talk to their families, procreate, some accounts even say they visit neighbors.
With the advent of electric lights this all changed. When the world stayed useful long into the night, the time left for sleep narrowed until there was only time for one really long sleep left. In modern culture the phenomenon of a double sleep has left the public consciousness entirely. I had never heard of it.
The article espoused that the modern eight hour sleep is unnatural. This is something I had suspected for a while, and seeing it in black and white got me excited. Is there a better way to sleep? I tried micro-sleeps with little success; and eight to 10 hours surely leaves me unfocused and dopey. I read more. I confirmed facts about the sleep cycle with wise Wikipedia. I found a Google copy of the book “At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past” mentioned in the article and read some of it.
Sunday morning I went to sleep at 12:30 a.m. after being up for 22 hours. When my alarm went off at 4:30 a.m., my eyes snapped open. I felt amazing. Instead of my usual alarm-clock hating, sentience-assigning anger, I rolled right out of futon, went to the kitchen, and ate a frozen cookie (so good!).
At 5:39 a.m., I went back to bed to see if I could get my second four hours before church at 10:30. I woke up Sunday morning four minutes before my first alarm at 8:58. I felt energized and ready to rock and roll.
Now I wonder, can I stop worrying that I will wake up tired? Read the article. Try it yourself. Maybe get your roommate on board.