Paleolithic Sleep Patterns

Apparently, sleeping all night isn’t a modern industrial invention:

The volunteers also slept continuously. They would toss and turn like everyone does, but they almost never woke up for a concerted window in the middle of the night. This contradicts a growing idea, popularized by historian Roger Ekirch, that sleeping in eight-hour chunks is a modern affectation.

Ekirch combed through centuries of Western literature and documents to show that Europeans used to sleep in two segments, separated by an hour or two of wakefulness. Siegel doesn’t dispute Ekirch’s analysis; he just thinks that the old two-block pattern was preceded by an even older single-block one. “The two-sleep pattern was probably due to humans migrating so far from the equator that they had long dark periods,” he says. “The long nights caused this pathological sleep pattern and the advent of electric lights and heating restored the primal one.”

Interesting. Also some good advice for better sleep.

5 thoughts on “Paleolithic Sleep Patterns”

  1. Perhaps what we used to do between first sleep and second sleep is throw a few logs on the fire that kept us from freezing.

  2. Strangely, this discussion strangely ignores the well-known effect that children have on sleep patterns. My father came from a family of 18 brothers and sisters. I don’t think my grandparents slept through the night very often.

    This is not limited to human offspring, either. I currently have a new puppy. That means getting up two to four times a night for potty trips. And recently, she’s started waking me up just because she wants a drink of water or a midnight snack or a bedtime story. (Okay, I’m making up the part about the bedtime story — so far, anyway.)

    1. Got a puppy last winter and trained it to ring a bell when he needs to go outside to bio and now he rings the bell whenever he sees something he wants to go bark at. At least he finally doesn’t need to go outside every fifteen minutes to empty his bladder.

  3. “Here’s the story that people like to tell about the way we sleep: Back in the day, we got more of it”

    Let me guess, the same people claiming that living a subsistence lifestyle was really a worker’s paradise of loafing around all day playing games?

    The lighting stuff makes sense but it was interesting that they also noted temperature. For me, it has always been easier to fall asleep when cool.

    In the winter, I put lamps on timers to kick on in the am to help wake up. They also turn off at night when its time to hit the sack. It helps with winter in general and daylight savings specifically.

    “Neither the San nor Tsimane even have a word for insomnia in their language. Why?”

    Because when you engage in physical labor all day you are not falling asleep but passing out from exhaustion.

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