Evidence continues to emerge, both scientific and historical, suggesting that the way in which the majority of us currently sleep may not actually be good for us.
In 2001, historian Roger Ekirch of Virginia Tech published a paper that included over 15 years of research. It cited an overwhelming amount of historical evidence which reveals that humans used to in fact sleep in two different chunks. (1)
In 2005, he published a book titled “At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past,” which included more than 500 references to a disjointed sleeping pattern. It included diaries, medical books, literature and more taken from various sources ranging from Homer’s Odyssey all the way to modern tribes in Nigeria.
“It’s not just the number of references – it is the way they refer to it, as if it was common knowledge.” – Ekirch (source)
What Was Found In The Research
Ekirch’s research found that we didn’t always sleep for an average of 8 hours straight. Instead, we would sleep in two shorter periods throughout the night. All sleep would occur within a 12 hour time frame that started with 3 or 4 hours of sleep, followed by being awake for 3 hours or so, and then sleeping again until the morning.
There was also some research done in the early 1990’s by psychiatrist Thomas Wehr. He conducted an experiment where 14 people were put into complete darkness for 14 hours a day for an entire month. By the fourth week the participants had settled into a very distinct sleeping pattern: the same bimodal sleeping pattern that Ekirch described. The subjects slept for approximately 4 hours, woke for another few, and then went back to sleep until morning. (2)