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No matter why the change happened, shortly after the turn of the 20 century the concept of two sleeps had vanished from common knowledge. Two sleeps per night may have been the method of antiquity, but tendencies towards it still linger in modern man.
There could be an innate biological preference for two sleeps, given the right circumstances.
Some were more active and would leave to visit with neighbours. Ekirch attributes the change to the advent of street lighting and eventually electric indoor light, as well as the popularity of coffee houses.
Author Craig Koslofsky offers a further theory in his book .
Once they had caught up on their sleep though, a strange thing started to happen. Over a twelve hour period, the participants would typically sleep for about four or five hours initially, then wake for several hours, then sleep again until morning. The middle hours of the night, between two sleeps, was characterized by unusual calmness, likened to meditation.
This was not the middle-of-the-night toss-and-turn that many of us experienced. He and his family intentionally went an entire month with no electric light.
I wanted China to be the place where I made a career and lived my life. We lived like kings—or we would have if there had been anything regal to spend our money on. One shop, the downtown Friendship Store, sold coffee in tins.
“It’s not just the number of references – it is the way they refer to it, as if it was common knowledge,” Ekirch says.
An English doctor wrote, for example, that the ideal time for study and contemplation was between “first sleep” and “second sleep.” Chaucer tells of a character in the Canterbury Tales that goes to bed following her “firste sleep.” And, explaining the reason why working class conceived more children, a doctor from the 1500s reported that they typically had sex after their first sleep. But just what did people do with these extra twilight hours? Most stayed in their beds and bedrooms, sometimes reading, and often they would use the time to pray.
The individuals did not stress about falling back asleep, but used the time to relax. In the winter months, this meant a lot of darkness and a lot of sleep.
Russell Foster, professor of circadian neuroscience at Oxford, points out that even with standard sleep patterns, this night waking isn’t always cause for concern. “I tell them that what they are experiencing is a throwback to the bi-modal sleep pattern.” Outside of a scientific setting, this kind of sleep pattern is still attainable, but it does require changing our modern, electric lifestyle. Moyer writes “…I would go to bed really early, like , and then get up around am.