Dr Neil Stanley Independent Sleep Expert
There are 7 major problems for the hypothesis that, to quote Ekirch, “Until the close of the early modern era, Western Europeans on most evenings experienced two major intervals of sleep bridged by up to an hour or more of quiet wakefulness“ and that this mode of sleeping was “the predominant pattern of sleep before the Industrial Revolution”:- 1. The absence of descriptions in the literature of behaviour actually resembling Ekirch’s proposed ‘segmented sleep’ 2. The scarcity of the phrase ‘second sleep’ and its absence in almost all other languages in which the phrase ‘first sleep’ occurs. 3. The absence of descriptions, or names in any language, of the hypothesised intervening period of wakefulness. 4. The existence in a number of cultures of ‘third sleep’ 5. The fact that the vast majority of examples of ‘first sleep’ relate to people being ‘in’ or ‘awakened from’ their ‘first sleep’ not awaking after their ‘first sleep’ as Ekirch contends. 6. The fact that examples of ‘first sleep’ occur at various times of the night and even during the day. 7. The lack of any scientific evidence of ‘segmented sleep’ in people living under real-life ‘pre-industrial’ conditions. The existence of the phrase ‘third sleep’ I believe refutes Ekirch’s conception of ‘segmented sleep’ Ekirch does give what appears to be a persuasive piece of evidence for the existence of ‘segmented sleep’ in that he states that “The Tiv even employ the terms "first sleep" and "second sleep" as traditional intervals of time”. However the actual quote is “Tiv are much less specific about time during the night. The time between dusk and about 10 o'clock is called "sitting together" (teman imongo). After that follows "the middle of the night" (helato tugh), which overlaps with the "time of the first sleep" (icin i mnya mom); "the time of the second sleep" (acin a mnya ahar) is about 3 AM or a bit later. The pre-dawn breeze (kiishi) gives its name to the period just before dawn.” Concepts of Time among the Tiv of Nigeria,  Paul Bohannan Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Autumn, 1953), pp. 251-262. However the Tiv are also recorded as having a phrase for the “time of the third sleep”   “Ichin imya mon - time of first sleep;  Ichin imya ahar- time of second sleep; Ichin imya ahar - time of third sleep” ( Eschatology in Tiv Traditional Religious Culture: An Interpretative Enquiry by Joseph S. Gbenda, Chuka Educational Publishers, 2005 page 55). This is pretty conclusive evidence that, certainly for the Tiv, there is no connection between their conception of ‘first’ and ‘second’ sleep and  ‘segmented sleep’ as proposed by Ekirch.  Interestingly ‘third sleep’ has also be described in another non-western society, the Rarotonga islanders 14. When a certain time had arrived, the parent, Vai-takere, said to his daughter, “O daughter! when I die you must bury me upon thine own pillow, outside in the courtyard; when it is night, in the first sleep of evening, if a noise is heard (of something) on the house, go thou outside and fetch it in. At the second sleep (again) go forth and bring it into the house. It is the outer-sheath of the kuru (bread-fruit). At another (later) sleep, if (something) falls, it will be the catkin of the kuru, go thou outside and bring it into the house. In the early dawn, if something falls, then go outside and fetch it into the house, it will be the food itself (the bread-fruit).” These were the parting instructions of the father to the daughter, said by him against the time of his death.here Journal of the Polynesian Society, Volume 8, No. 2, June 1899  History and traditions of Rarotonga, by Te Ariki-tara-are, translated by S. Percy Smith, corrected by Rev. J. J. K. Hutchin, p 66 as well as in some Islamic teaching concerning fasting “it applies in case he sleeps for the third time after having woken up twice” and “does not wake up from the third sleep by the azan of the morning” also alluded to “If a person sleeps for the third time, and does not wake up (until morning)” A Clarification of Questions: An Unabridged Translation of Resaleh Towzih al-Masael by Ayatollah Sayyed Ruhollah Mousavi Khomeini, Translated by J. Borujerdi, with a Foreword by Michael M. J. Fischer and Mehdi Abedi, Westview Press/ Boulder and London, c1984 223 here.  Interestingly there is also a pre-industrial source, Via Recta 1620, that states that sleep is divided into three parts “The whole time of sleepe being divided into 3 parts, the first is chiefly profitable to the stomacke, the second to the stomacke and liver, the third, in qua segregatio fit puri ab impuro, to the heart and the braine. And while few in number there are some modern examples e.g.  ‘In the third sleep I awake near the lake’  Poems of G.S. Fraser Leicester University Press, 1981 32 here  ‘until I dropped to the bottom of my third sleep’ The Clown Alfred Kern 1960 51 here  ‘When I woke from my third sleep, it was morning’ Night Out: Poems about Hotels, Motels, Restaurants, and Bars Kurt Brown, Laure-Anne Bosselaar 1997 here  A gradual change in the dream is finely conceived; the sleeper twice wakes and sleeps again, and whereas he began with dreaming of the tale as told by another, he dreams next that he is telling it himself, and in his third sleep it is no more a tale, but his own life’ William Morris: The Critical Heritage Peter Faulkner Routledge 2013 115 here. Supreme Court Appellate Division--First Judicial Department (here) Page 62 “he was just awakened out of a third sleep” page 86 “in my third sleep” page 90 “at a time when he was in his third sleep” The ship in the wake, a three act play for boy's [sic] and young men, Carroll, Patrick Joseph, South Bend, Ind., 1916 Father Hyland — [Looking at the hoys for some moments.] It only remains for me to tell you not to be too noisy. Boys should be seen and not heard. [Boys shake their heads and show signs of disapproval.] And they should be seen but seldom —mostly in school and church. [Boys show signs of disagreement.] Above all, do not remain too late. Moore —Ten o'clock, Father? Father Hyland — [With assumed severity.] Ten o'clock! Why, young man, do you think this is an all-night theatre? Ten o'clock, indeed ! Why, my young men, the world is in its third sleep —or ought to be —^at ten o'clock. Let me see. [Looks at his watch.] It's now five minutes after eight. Let the last boy of you be out of here by nine o'clock. Folk songs of many peoples : with English versions by American poets / compiled and edited by Florence Hudson Botsford. New York City : The Womans Press, 1921-1922. here All the night I will not sleep, I will await my love. In the first sleep of night, my true love did not come. Int he second sleep of night, my heart's desire came not. In the third sleep of night, came dawn white and fair. How nature cures, comprising a new system of hygiene; also the natural food of man; a statement of the principal arguments against the use of bread, cereals, pulses, potatoes, and all other starch foods. By Emmet Densmore .London, S. Sonnenschein & co.; New York, Stillman & co. [c1892] here P48 A constant mental repetition of verses, fables, or any composition that has been committed to the memory is an excellent practice, or even persistently counting up to 100, and repeating until hundreds or even thousands have been gone over. Many persons can induce in this way a second or a third sleep.
© Dr. Neil Stanley 2013-2018