Unfortunately, people rarely think about the importance of getting enough sleep. For one thing, it is important for revitalizing the body and rejuvenating the mind. But, what does enough mean? And how it looks like? Many people these days have difficulty staying asleep during the night and wonder if they are victims of a sleep disorder or something more serious.
This is within the realms of possibility, and it is also possible that sleep might not be an all-night matter. As a matter of fact, historical records and ancient references to sleep are showing a pretty much different way we should be looking at sleeping.
Segmented Sleep: More normal than you realize
In case waking up during the night is a common problem for you, it is likely that you are suffering from sleep apnea or insomnia. The term ‘segmented sleep’ refers to irregular sleep pattern which might be nothing but a natural biological response.
Roger Ekirch, an English scholar, firmly established the idea that our ancestors practiced segmented sleep, using middle-of-the-night hours to meditate, pray, or do some chores around home. He found references to ‘first sleep’ and ‘second sleep’ in many documents and letters written prior the Industrial Revolution.
These in-between hours were typically spent in prayer, and were one of the most relaxing periods for most people. The reason for this is that this middle period between first sleep and second sleep is around midnight when the brain produces the relaxing hormone, prolactin.
Many sleeping problems may have roots in the human body’s natural preference for segmented sleep
According to Ekirch, modern day sleeping problems stem from body`s natural preference for segmented sleep. He thinks that the historical sleeping patterns might be the reason for the many people suffering from ‘sleep maintenance insomnia’, a condition in which they wake in the middle of the night.
“For most of evolution, we slept a certain way. Waking up during the night is part of normal human physiology.The idea that we must sleep in a consolidated block could be damaging, he says, if it makes people who wake up at night anxious, as this anxiety can itself prohibit sleep and is likely to seep into waking life too.” – Psychologist Greg Jacobs.
According to Russell Foster, a professor of circadian neuroscience at Oxford:
“Many people wake up at night and panic. I tell them that what they are experiencing is a throwback to the bi-modal sleep pattern. But the majority of doctors still fail to acknowledge that a consolidated eight-hour sleep may be unnatural. Over 30% of the medical problems that doctors are faced with stem directly or indirectly from sleep. But sleep has been ignored in medical training and there are very few centers where sleep is studied.”
Before reaching for that sleeping pill, consider this
The natural biorhythms are controlled by exposure to light and darkness. Before the launch of the light bulb, people used to schedule their day according the rising and setting of the sun. When the sun rose, humans did the same. When the sun hit the horizon, they went to sleep.