Dr Neil Stanley Independent Sleep Expert
Ekirch, AR What sleep research can learn from history. Sleep Health: Journal of the National Sleep Foundation, 2018 Volume 4, Issue 6, 515 - 518 here (Paywall) This paper needn’t detain us long as the relevant passages concerning segmented sleep are merely a restatement of his conception of segmented sleep. What however is truly amazing is that given Ekirch’s contention that “With the aid of vast collections of historical data accessible to digital searches,more than 2000 references to this pattern of sleep have been discovered.” he relies on the same few sources for his quotes.  All but one of these references have been used in Ekirch’s previous papers 5. Ekirch AR. At Day's Close: Night in Times Past. New York, NY: W.W. Norton; 2005. 24. Joubert L. Popular Errors. Translated by Gregory Dave de Rocher, Tuscaloosa, ALA: Univ. of Alabama Press; 1989; 112–113. (See my discussion here) 25. Homer, Odyssey, IV. 556. In: Nicoll A, editor. Chapman's Homer: The Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Lesser Homerica. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press; 1967. p. 73. (See my discussion here) 26. Fitzgerald R, editor. Virgil, Aeneid. New York, NY: Macmillan; 1965. p. 262 Translated by Dryden, J. (1697). (See my discussion here) 27. Ekirch AR. The modernization of Western sleep: or, does insomnia have a history? Past Present. 2015; 226: 149–192. (See my discussion here and here) 28. Imaginary Chats with an Articled Clerk. Law Notes: A Monthly Magazine for Students and Practictioners, 10. ; 1891. p. 279. (See my discussion here) 29. Ekirch AR. Segmented sleep in preindustrial societies. Sleep. 2016;36:715–716. (See my discussion here) 30. Wehr T. In short photoperiods, human sleep is biphasic. J Sleep Res. 1992;1: 103–107. (See my discussion here) 31. Sledge Jr GW. Perchance to dream. Oncol Times. 2012;34:28. (See my discussion here) 32. Simmonds A. Awake in fright: insomnia made my life unbearable, Sydney Morning Herald; 2014. Aleica Simmonds, “Awake in Fright: Insomnia Made My Life Unbearable,” Sydney Morning Herald, Apr. 23, 2014 "The most effective remedy for me, and one that continues to work today was history, and I don't mean the sedative qualities of history textbooks. A glance through books on the history of the night (a wonderful new field of research), shows that our idea of an eight-hour sleep is actually very recent and only came about with gas-lighting and industrialisation in the late 18th century. Before this people did what many insomniacs still do: they had two sleeps. Historian Roger Ekirch has found that in preindustrial households families would awaken in the dead of night for a period of time. Generally people would sleep for three to four hours, wake for two to three hours and then sleep again until the morning. What would they do in this interim period? Ekirch says that they'd go visiting neighbours, study, stoke fires, pray, smoke tobacco and have sex. One doctor from the 1500s said that the reason why working class people had more children is because they always have sex after first sleep. And yes, they would refer to their sleep not in terms of one eight-hour block but in terms of first sleep and second sleep. The difference, of course, is that night was a more vast and perilous period than for us. There was no electric indoor lighting or street lighting to allow for the intrusion of work and so sleep generally fell over a 12-hour period. People also couldn't travel the distances that we do today during the night for fear of bandits, screeching owls or wolves that look like hounds. When lighting made the night a site of pleasure rather than peril, and industrialisation made the day an expansive terrain of productive labour, two luxurious sleeps became one. How does this history help insomnia? For me, it proved that there was nothing natural or inevitable about the idea of an eight-hour uninterrupted sleep. If I went to bed earlier, it was OK to wake up for a few hours. It also meant that I stopped howling into the void during those few hours I was awake and instead used that time to read novels, do relaxation exercises or write. In my efforts to keep as close to my medieval forbears as possible, I never looked at my phone. The worst thing you can do when you wake up at 3am is to stress. And nothing is likely to induce panic more than the idea that sleeping uninterrupted for eight hours is necessary for mental and physical health.” As you can see this article is solely in response to Ekirch’s previous work and therefore the journalists behaviour is merely at the response to this information it is not a novel finding -
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