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. Ekirch claims that “The intervening period of consciousness—what Stevenson poetically labelled a "nightly resurrection"—bore no name other than the generic term "watch" or "watching"”, although this must beg the question given that Ekirch states that “Such was its importance that sleep inspired a typology more nuanced than that routinely employed today” why would such a universal phenomenon, part of the “predominant pattern of sleep” to quote Ekirch again, that was practised by so many people for such a long period of recorded history did not have a name, particularly in such a rich language as English? He suggests that “the generic term "watch" or "watching"” was used to describe this period of awake, however whilst it is true that they “to indicate a period of wakefulness that stemmed, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, "from disinclination or incapacity for sleep."” However the OED definitions for ‘watch’ and ‘watching’, and the example given, describe an actual state of being awake not an interval of time between two periods of sleep e.g. watching “The state or condition of being awake, wakefulness; often, wakefulness from disinclination or incapacity for sleep; an instance of this.” Ekirch also states that “Stevenson poetically labelled” this time a "nightly resurrection" however it is clear that Stevenson was talking about the act of awakening, (OED resurrection - ‘Revival or revitalization, esp. of a person who or thing which has fallen into inactivity’), not a period of wakefulness.
© Dr. Neil Stanley 2013-2019