Broken Sleep Might Be Good For You

Does anyone else know humans used to sleep twice a night? First sleep as soon as the sun goes down, then we would wake some time after midnight to pray, talk, read, or just make love, before falling back asleep. I had no idea this was the case!

What changed? Effective lighting at night, making the nighttime safer and more active, pushing out our days and squeezing our rest time to a solid block. Nowadays, we expect we should be able to sleep right through the night, and if you can’t, well, you have a problem. Maybe we’re treating broken sleep wrong? Maybe we should embrace the break so we can sleep better? Of course, it might involve going to bed earlier…

I could write more about this topic I just discovered in the most amateurish way, but I found someone who has done it better than I could.

Article: Why Broken Sleep Is A Golden Time For Creativity

And if you want some opinions on the research, there’s this interesting commentary from Virginia Tech.

To be fair, I don’t have much trouble sleeping through the night, but that’s me. I know a lot of people who ‘struggle’ with sleep, and some of them function very well. The article I linked to above suggests it’s because of the expectation of sleeping: when sleep doesn’t come we worry about not sleeping and making the problem worse. Maybe there’s more than one way to go about this sleep business, and we just have to find the way that works for us. If we need to get up and move around and read or whatever, maybe that’s just what we need to do?

A curious idea.

9 thoughts on “Broken Sleep Might Be Good For You

  1. Thank you for that post. It reminded me of something I read about the ‘first sleep’, ‘second sleep’ way of passing the dark hours of night here

    It makes sense, doesn’t it? Like the siesta in Spain – a way of getting your rest time in smaller chunks. It’s odd how the idea of 8 hours of unbroken sleep is now our gold standard – and sad that so many people get stressed by feeling that they’re not doing their sleeping ‘right’.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’ve heard about this! I just read the link you attached – thanks! It’s great to get more info about something that seems so strange because no one really talks about it even though it was such a common thing. It’s just like the siesta in Spain, though I think that’s been squeezed out lately because tourism is their second biggest industry and they have to cater to foreign patterns… having said that, while I was there EVERYONE suddenly went out and about after the sun went down. Lots of bike riders, dog walkers, and heaps of families having dinner out at nine o’clock at night! And they had so much energy, it was really surreal to me, but it’s normal to them.
      One size doesn’t fit all, hey?


      • It’s supposed to have changed when people started working in factories, on shifts, rather than in agriculture. I read somewhere that people would collapse into bed when they got home from work, as the sun went down, then wake up for a while in the middle of the night to chat, write or whatever. it does make sense, doesn’t it, as long as you had enough candles?

        There’s something so still and magical about the middle of the night and sharing that time in conversation with another human being must have been very special.

        I suppose that all the schedules of prayer – the Christian and the Muslim, with their requirements for night time prayer reflect the fact that it’s a special time and that it’s not bad for your health to be awake at that time.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Very good points. After all, we still hold the idea that nighttime is the best for creativity, don’t we? We have the romantic ideal of artists finding their muse at night and inventors having their eureka moment when they have moments of reflection at night. It is a special time. Maybe that’s where we get the ‘second wind’ from too. I find sometimes when I get ready for bed my mind just goes nuts and it’s a prime-time for scribbling important notes!
        This is a fun conversation. The more we talk about it, the more things I discover 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • You’ve just reminded me of how some toddlers go crazy and run about madly just before they crash into sleep in the afternoon – as if they’re discharging energy ready to rest.

        Not implying that you’re a toddler 🙂 but maybe creative energy has to be discharged each day in a similar way.
        I do believe that things should be written down when they want to be written down. When you reread them some time later, when you’ve forgotten the thought process that inspired them, they can surprise you!

        By the way – this isn’t on your topic, but interesting nevertheless – I heard a radio programme on the BBC where, about 12 minutes in, you hear a British woman who believed that she transcribed music communicated to her by long dead composers. It’s fascinating – mainly because she sounds so utterly matter of fact (and so old fashionedly British). I was wondering, when she spoke about Liszt visiting her when she was 7, what language he spoke to her. Anyway – here she is, just after 12 minutes:

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Katie says:

    Of course you wouldn’t be referring to my ability to function on 2 hours sleep? 😜 and still wake up with this charming and sparkling personality!


    • Oh yes, you did come to mind when I found out about this! I am amazed at how cheerful you are when you only get 2 hours sleep. You always appear really healthy too… I don’t understand it, but there it is. As long as you feel good, who am I to say you’re wrong?
      Also, welcome first time commenter!


  3. As much as I try to keep a daylight schedule, I always roll back around to being awake in the middle of the night. It is dark out, quiet, all are in bed and sleeping… and I can read and work in the silence of the night. When I want I can go out and stare up at the stars and wonder at the beauty and the unending field of stars….

    Liked by 1 person

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