What's in Sleep

In our daily lives our routines of eat, sleep, and work are becoming more fragmented and interesting as we have adjusted to doing one, two, or all three of these on the go. We can work while traveling using public transportation, eat while driving to school; and when do we sleep? An older statistic released by the National Commission on Sleep Disorders states that that sleep deprivation costs 150 billion a year in higher stress and reduced workplace productivity while over 1/3 of Americans report sleeping less than seven hours a day. A night's rest has turned into a negligible factor amongst our ├╝berconnected world where there is always something to be wide-eyed and awake for.

In earliest human history around the equator, humans dedicated twelve hours of daylight to wakefulness and twelve hours or darkness to sleep. Since the diaspora has driven the race to the far corners of the globe, our patterns of sleep have altered drastically; in regions where seasons of 24 hours of darkness will follow seasons of 24 hours of light, cultures have adapted their schedules of leisure and work around these cycles. Given the opportunity to hole up for extended amounts of time without natural light, humans will choose to fall asleep around 8 o'clock,

sleep for four hours and then wake up for another two hours, which they will follow with four or more hours of sleep. According to A. Roger Ekirch, an Op-Ed Contributor for the NY Times, this pattern of sleep was shared by pre-industrial families: “Until the modern age, most households had two distinct intervals of slumber, known as “first” and “second” sleep, bridged by an hour or more of quiet wakefulness. Usually, people would retire between 9 and 10 o'clock only to stir past midnight to smoke a pipe, brew a tub of ale or even converse with a neighbor.”

Whereas these biphasic or polyphasic sleep patterns might be anachronisms, it is important for us to evaluate our sleeping patterns and think about them critically, choosing a sounder sleep over getting some shut-eye as it comes.

Several sleeping patterns have been cataloged in the Wikipedia entry here for the interested: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyphasic_sleep).

Before putting this post to bed; a final quote from Shakespeare:

“Sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care, the death of each day's life, sore labor's bath, balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course, chief nourisher in life's feast.” –Macbeth/Shakespeare


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