Full History of Sleep – How Ancient Humans Slept Before Electricity

Full History of Sleep – How Ancient Humans Slept Before Electricity

Full History of Sleep – How Ancient Humans Slept Before Electricity

One-third of the population suffers from insomnia, which can manifest as difficulty falling asleep or maintaining sleep. However, it turns out that people have always intentionally broken up their sleep into distinct phases, a phenomenon known as biphasic sleep.

On the other hand, waking up multiple times during the night is likely perfectly normal. If we look at human history, we can find that humans consciously divided their sleep into shifts, referred to as biphasic or segmented sleep, in the field of sleep study.

This article will study the history of sleep, including biphasic rest, and how it may be helpful in today’s environment. Because the current world is replete with sleep disorders, this essay will investigate the origin of sleep.

When Did People First Start Sleeping?

We, as human beings, have always needed our beauty sleep. Humans’ preferred means of unwinding have evolved through time and across civilisations. Cultural shifts, population movements, and innovations in medicine and science could all have influenced sleep’s recorded history.

Sleeping, like breathing and eating, is an essential bodily function one should maintain regularly. Scholars in sleep have formulated four hypotheses to explain why we require sleep.

The Inactivity Theory is one explanation for why animals sleep. This theory proposes that sleep evolved as a survival adaptation so that animals could remain tranquil when most endangered. 

As a result of the fact that your metabolism slows when you sleep, sleep may enable living things to store energy which is especially significant in situations where food is scarce, which is known as the second hypothesis, the Energy Conservation Theory.

Both the Cognitive Plasticity Hypothesis and the Restful Sleep Paradigm emphasise the significance of sleep in brain development throughout the first few years of a child’s life, particularly during the infant and toddler years.

History of Ancient Human SleepThe Evolution of Human Sleeping Habits

1. The Late Stone Age

Researchers have looked to modern tribes that still maintain ways of life similar to those of early hunters, gatherers, and agrarian cultures. 

This is to understand the sleeping patterns of those early societies because there is a lack of knowledge about the sleeping habits of those early societies.

The traditional communities of hunters and gatherers in Tanzania, Bolivia, and Namibia were the focus of research conducted by the UCLA[2] researchers team. 

Scientists have debunked the notion that people stay up later because of the ease of contemporary technology by discovering that most individuals sleep around 3.5 hours after the sun goes down. 

Participants slept for an average of 6.25 hours daily, with shorter standards in the summer and longer ones in the winter.

In addition, they found that the patients had uncommon instances of waking up during the night. 

This research indicates that people started sleeping in shifts after moving into northern Europe, where the long winter nights may have caused disruptions in their standard sleep patterns and led to the development of alternate sleep.

2. Between the 1400s to 1500s

Scholars like Roger Ekirch[3] use textual evidence to argue that segmented sleep habits were daily in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. 

During this historical period, it was typical practice to wake up once at night and then go back to sleep for a second time before going back to bed again.

People would have no concern about being awake at three in the morning because they would be praying, meditating, having sexual relations, performing household duties, reading by the light of a candle, or chatting with friends.

3. 17th Century

The late 1600s ushered in the official start of the period known as the 17th Century, which also marks the commencement of a decline in allusions to alternating sleeping. 

According to a piece published by British Broadcasting, this phenomenon initially manifested among the urban wealthy of Europe’s northern region.

Then during the subsequent two centuries, it expanded across Western culture.

4. 19th Century – Present Day

Back then, Tom was greeted at home by members of his family dating back to the 19th Century and continuing up to the present day.

The nineteenth Century was the starting point for the revolution of the industries we know it. 

People were no longer allowed to take a nap break due to the long working days and the strict scheduling in the workplace (including two shifts) whenever they wished. 

Instead, they began to compress more sleep into the same number of cycles. Comparable to how modern society perceives the need for sleep.

Electricity and public lighting have significantly reduced the number of city dwellers who can work two jobs during the week. They started to recognise the advantages of being awake and the significance of time in a more comprehensive manner.

By the time we reached the 1920s, the idea of a biphasic or segmented sleep schedule had been entirely eradicated from published works.

What Exactly Is Biphasic Sleep, Anyway?

The phrase “biphasic sleep” refers to a sleeping pattern that differs from the “monophasic sleep” pattern in that it divides the night into two different phases rather than remaining in one continuous step throughout the night. 

Before the invention of electric illumination and the growth of the factory system, most people most likely slept in a biphasic pattern, also known as “segmented sleep” or “bimodal” sleep. Biphasic sleep is also known as “bimodal” sleep.

People would go to sleep shortly after that the setting sun, rest for approximately four to five hours, awaken up, do things such as communicating with loved ones and engaging in activities, and subsequently go back to fall asleep for a couple of additional hours ahead of the sunrise if there was no electric light, according to Rebecca Robbins, PhD, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School and a sleep expert for Oura.

Humans are the only mammals that habitually sleep only throughout the night, as stated by Sara Mednick, PhD, a professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine and the author of The Power of the Downstate: Recharge Your Life Using Your Body’s Restorative Systems. 

She explains that most other species are nocturnal, meaning they sleep throughout the day and wake up early. She believes that the idea that human beings should only sleep during the hours of darkness as opposed to during the hours of daylight is a more modern one that is possibly not as intuitive to our natural daily rhythm.

There Are Two Basic Types of Biphasic Sleep

The following are the two phases that make up biphasic sleep:

1. The First and the Second Stages of Sleep

This routine consists of going to bed early, sleeping for a few hours, getting up for a short break, and resting for a few more hours after the break. You should receive between seven and nine total hours of sleep each night.

In supervised photoperiods in the research setting, Bruce Bassi, M.D., a psychiatrist and founder and CEO of Telepsych Health, stated that “it appears that we typically fall into a pattern of two distinct stages of slumber with an average of one to a three-hour awakening period between them.” 

The terminology used to characterise “First sleep” and “second sleep” were the two distinct phases of sleep; however, the period of awake that occurs in between these two stages of sleep, the “Watch” in English dialect and dorveille, which translates to “wake-sleep” in French. 

(Notably, the main character in Colson Whitehead’s 2021 best-selling novel Harlem Shuffle wakes up in the short hours of the night to plan his retribution. He refers to this time of night as “dorvay,” a phrase he remembers from his French classes.)

2. Napping/ Taking a Siesta:

A shorter nap during the day (lasting for at least an hour) and a longer sleep (staying for five or six hours) at night are both components of this sleeping pattern.

It is typical practice in several countries, like Spain and Italy, to nap in the afternoon, which lasts sixty to ninety minutes and then sleep for fewer than eight hours at night. 

It is essential to differentiate between this pattern and polyphasic sleeping, which refers to taking multiple short naps during the day. The latter may sometimes total up to six uninterrupted hours of sleep, so knowing the difference between them is crucial. 

If you can, Dr Bassi suggests that you take advantage of the “circadian dip” between midday and three o’clock in the afternoon. 

“One of the challenges with this method of sleeping is that you can awake disoriented if you awaken up in the latter stages of a restful slumber pattern,” he explains. “This is one of the reasons why I don’t recommend it.”

Why Does Sleeping in Phases Work So Much Better?

This kind of relaxation can help those who have trouble falling or staying asleep: Most research on the benefits of two-phase sleeping includes napping rather than first- and second-stage sleep because napping is easier to study.

However, according to Mednick, acknowledging that it’s OK to be up during the night even if you’re not getting any sleep can help certain people feel less anxious. 

After we approach our forties, most of us may start to sleep in two distinct stages (mainly women, who may suffer sleep issues linked with perimenopause), which is especially true for women. 

She says, “An enormous number of people begin waking up at nighttime to find themselves beginning to panic about it.” According to one of the authors, “It may develop into an actual emotional barrier.” 

Those who accept the situation as it is and make productive use of the time before going back to bed can significantly reduce the stress they experience from laying there counting the hours until the alarm goes off.

People who choose to accept their circumstances as they are and make productive use of the remaining time before going back to bed can significantly reduce the amount of stress they experience due to laying there counting the hours until the alarm goes off.

Multiple studies have demonstrated that catching a break in the middle of the day increases cognitive performance. “When compared to the intellectual advantages you see with a restful night’s sleep, you observe identical intellectual advantages with a nap,” says Mednick. 

People’s ability to remember things verbally and spatially, as well as their creative powers, ability to perceive, pay attention, and ability to juggle multiple tasks simultaneously, all improve with age.

It can help you get through the day by providing energy: People who work midnight shifts or stay up late reading on their phones sometimes experience daytime fatigue; research has shown that napping during the day can alleviate this problem. 

According to Dr Bassi, our “circadian dip” occurs between noon and three o’clock in the afternoon, making that period ideal for napping. Of course, this is only doable if you have the luxury of working from home at night or having a doored, couch-equipped office with a very understanding supervisor.

It can give you an edge boost in sports: Recent study data has indicated that taking a nap during the middle of the day can boost athletic performance in various ways. According to the results, a wink of 90 minutes is just right.

Is It Safe to Say That Sleeping in Two Phases Is Dangerous?

Robbins, who is not a fan of the intermittent sleep schedule and points out that individuals adopted it not out of choice but rather out of necessity, says that this pattern has gained popularity. 

She explains that the data indicates that it is best for your mental, emotional, and physical well-being to obtain fewer hours of sleep but to make those hours last longer.

The practice could jeopardise your health if neither of the two phases of your biphasic sleep is deep and refreshing. Robbins contends that “fragmented sleep” increases the risk of getting the following conditions:

How to Give Biphasic Sleep a Try

If you are still interested in putting it to the test, you should:

1. Check to See That the Combination of the Two Will Result in Enough Amount of Sleep for the Night

You should aim to get at least seven hours of sleep each night, even if you opt to take naps during the day or break your nighttime sleep into two parts. If you decide to nap, you should sleep for at least one full hour.

“You must remain asleep for a minimum of one hour to enter into slow-wave sleep,” which is the most significant healing phase of sleep, and to additionally enter the rapid eye movement (REM) duration, which is essential for inventiveness but simpler to get up from. 

As stated by Mednick, “You require to rest at a minimum an hour to enter into slow-wave sleep.”

2. Keep the Lights Low During Your Dorveille.

Because dorveille is the time directly before your first and second sleep cycle, you must keep the brightness low and minimise exposure to blue light, which causes the body to react by waking up and being alert.

According to what Mednick recommended, you should always have a pair of blue-light glasses. These are exceptionally powerful at obstructing the morning-indicating blue light from reaching your eyes, which is a huge benefit.

Spend your time between midnight and 1 am doing a relaxing activity.

3. You Should Do Something Relaxing During the Hours of Each of Your Periods of Sleep

For example, you can start by following Ben Franklin’s advice and taking “cold air baths” (walking around the house naked), reading a book (on paper rather than a screen), practising meditation, engaging in yoga, or even having sex (so long as your partner is on board with this plan, of course).

When you find yourself wide awake in the middle of the night, Mednick recommends jotting down your thoughts so that you do not allow them to escalate into worry. According to her description, when you initially open your eyes, your mind can ” race.” 

When this kind of recurrent thinking occurs, it may simply be your brain telling you, “Please don’t lose sight of this!” When this happens, take down what you’re thinking to break the repetitive thought pattern and go on.

4. Maintain Coherence

Regardless of the type of sleep routine, keeping a consistent bedtime and wake time (once or twice) is essential so your body can learn when to wind down for the day. 

Maintaining a consistent evening routine (drinking decaffeinated tea, meditating for ten minutes, cleaning one’s teeth, going to bed, etc.) might also be beneficial.

The Advantages of Splitting Your Sleep Into Two Phases

The current arrangement allows for more freedom than the traditional alternate sleep cycle, disregarded mainly in the modern world.

People who have problems falling or staying asleep may find it beneficial to embrace the natural circadian rhythms of their bodies rather than trying to push themselves to conform to a tight monophasic routine which may help them sleep better.

Many still adhere to partitioned rest[5], particularly among Muslim, Mediterranean, and Hispanic countries.

The Negative Aspects Splitting Your Sleep Into Two Phases

Because it requires retiring to bed shortly after sunset, regular biphasic napping could not be compatible with the schedules of the majority of individuals. People must shift their sleeping and waking habits to be on time for work and personal commitments.

Even those people who can change their schedules to allow biphasic sleeping may still suffer from feelings of tiredness and exhaustion. 

Only a few people can adjust their plans to accommodate biphasic sleeping. A program with just one phase would work best in this circumstance.

Is It Correct That There Used to Be a Transitional Period Between the First and Second Stages of Sleep?

There is a wealth of supporting data. The majority of people in Western countries used to follow a biphasic sleep pattern before the industrial revolution. 

This pattern consisted of going to bed by 9 or 10 p.m., sleeping for three to three and a half hours, and then waking up around midnight to do whatever they wanted until they fell asleep again and woke up in the morning.

Many Years Ago in Time Can Documentation of This Alternating-Phase Sleep Pattern Be Found?

The Odyssey by Homer, written around 800 or 700 B.C., contains the earliest mention of this topic. 

Although Virgil describes this biphasic sleep cycle in greater depth in the Aeneid, Livy and Apuleius briefly mention it in Thucydides, amongst other classical authors. V

irgil’s Aeneid is often among Western history’s most significant literary masterpieces.

Since When Did Sleep Become Standard Practice to Have Only One Longer Stage of Sleep Rather Than Two?

The repercussions of the Industrial Revolution are chiefly responsible for the slow and irregular pace of change that occurred throughout the 19th Century.

The most significant development was the widespread implementation of electricity, the first accomplishment with gas lamps and later with electric ones. 

Sleeping undisturbed through the night became the norm in Western culture at the beginning of the 20th Century, despite the possible exception of a few remote rural places.

Does Proof Exist In Documents That Show How Sleeping Patterns Have Changed Throughout This Period?

A literal mountain’s worth of English content includes vast troves of literature, magazines, scientific publications, and newspapers that appear once you search via keywords. 

These databases may be accessible via the Internet. Despite appearances, the task’s completion shortens to a few months, although it would ordinarily take decades.

I remind those working on scientific research papers that although it is hard, we now have phenomenal internet search engines that can explore thousands of web pages of information from the past.

Incontestable. My essay, featured in Sleep in March 2016, is the most recent overview of this subject. Evidence shows that preindustrial peoples on every continent and Antarctica conducted biphasic sleep cycles.

There is no clear answer to whether or not this sleeping pattern is still the most common one in Western cultures.

Has the Widespread Adoption of Artificial Lighting Affected the Way People Go to Bed and Wake Up?

Most likely, in several distinct modes of operation. In 1807, gasoline-powered lamps were first demonstrated in London, and this year marked the culmination of rapid advancement in the lighting of town states across Europe and the United States, fueled by petroleum derived from whale commerce.

By 1823, more than 40,000 lights had illuminated more than 200 kilometres of the city’s streets and paths. Three hundred municipalities across the United States had street lighting systems by 1860.

Rapidly following these advancements was the installation of better lighting in both commercial and affluent residential settings. 

At the beginning of the nineteenth Century, a single gas mantle generated light approximately 12 times as bright as an oil lamp or a candle. 

By the end of that Century, one bulb produced light about 100 times as bright as its forebears.                      

Even though this significant change in light has caused late bedtimes in metropolitan areas, there has been no noticeable adjustment in wake-up time, just about the morning. 

There’s a good chance that many people went to bed each night feeling exhausted than people in previous generations.

Because of their heightened desire for sleep, they likely slept through the night for quite a period and in a more restful manner.

According to proponents of sleep limitation therapy, compression is essential to promote the development of deep sleep and suppress other, less advantageous kinds of sleep. This is the case because reduction causes the body to sleep more quickly.

Following this argument, people’s propensity to sleep increased over the nineteenth Century, which improved sleep quality and made eliminating a second nap more tolerable.

People can stay up later at night thanks to the widespread use of artificial lighting, another fundamentally more critical influence. Nearly all scientists agree with the effect that light (or the absence of light) has on one’s ability to sleep.

There is a considerable correlation between the amount of exposure to electricity and the likelihood of falling asleep. 

According to the observations of a specialist in the field of sleep medicine named Dr Charles Czeisler, as the author puts it, “Any single time we switch on a lamp, we unintentionally ingest a medication that affects the way that we sleep.”

A group of cells roughly equivalent to the dimensions of a single kernel of wheat near the cerebral cortex’s base serves as a heart rate sensor. It regulates the timing of cyclical biological processes such as hormone release.

One of these effects is a shift in melatonin levels, a crucial hormone for keeping to a regular sleeping schedule. Light deprivation can also cause other effects.

Melatonin is a hormone that is secreted by the pineal gland. Melatonin is responsible for signalling to the body that nightfall has arrived and also helps people fall asleep. 

Charles Czeisler has discovered that light’s “most profound resetting effect” occurs at night, “when the heart rate sensor ‘expects’ darkness.”

Do You Have Any Ideas About the Kind of Beds That Will Be Available to Us in the Future?

Considering all of the advancements that have been made in medicine, we ought to be able to sleep more comfortably than we ever have before, unfettered from the irritations caused by illness and suffering, as well as poor weather and noisy neighbours.

As portrayed in an old painting, Tartini indulges in daydreams, in which he is the celebrated violinist and composer of the Venetian Republic. Magasin Pittoresque was opened in Paris in 1840 and was named after J. Boilly’s dad, its creator.

Our forefathers had concerns about the midnight threats of fire, robbers, and witches, but we do not face these same risks. Neither a scientist nor a person with the ability to make predictions; I am a historian. On the other hand, the pattern that has emerged thus far suggests that sleep quality will keep improving.

The future depends on each of us individually, barring the widespread use of drugs designed to keep warriors awake for extended periods, such as those currently under development by the United States military.

As a result of our high-powered daily routines, many of us now look determined to cut back on the amount of sleep we get. It’s a catch-22: the minimal time we give ourselves to rest, the higher the standard we put up for the quality of sleep we get when we do get it.

People spend a lot of money on overpriced beds and sleep aids in a fruitless attempt to get some shut-eye so that they may function during the day; alternatively, they resort to beverages that have caffeine in high amounts and, if feasible, nap during the day. 

In any case, the “sleep industrial complex” benefits.

Questions That We Get a Lot

1. When There Were No Such Things as Beds, How Did People Find a Place to Sleep?

Before the development of the Tempur-Pedic and the Casper, people would sleep on makeshift mattresses made of things like stacked straws. 

Initially, mattresses were created out of inflated textiles; however, as time passed, people started utilising down instead. 

The use of bed frames can be traced back to the time of the ancient Egyptians, even though they didn’t appear on the scene until much later.

2. On What Did The First Cavemen Sleep On?

A group of archaeologists in South Africa uncovered an underground cave that provided new information about Stone Age sleeping habits. 

They discovered numerous layers of ash and grass matting estimated to be about 200,000 years old. According to the study’s authors, the ash was likely employed to ward off ticks and various other insects.

3. Is It OK to Take Naps During the Day?

The response to this question in the field of sleep medicine will vary depending on who you ask to answer it. 

Some doctors and other health care workers maintain that this method of sleeping is the most beneficial for our bodies since it most closely resembles the natural state in which we doze off. 

Some doctors and other health professionals believe it is ineffective in today’s society because it is challenging to implement and may result in various sleep disorders.

Things like smartphones and other responsibilities can disrupt the transitional phase between the first and second sleep cycles, making it more difficult to nod off during the second cycle.

We suggest you discuss sticking to a regimen like this with your primary care physician. Make sure you get between seven and nine hours of sleep every night, and take stock of your mental health to see where you stand.

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