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Thread: Western European Sleep Patterns 500-200 Years Ago

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    Western European Sleep Patterns 500-200 Years Ago

    Had to read this article for my Cultural Anthropology class... thought it might be of some interest to others here:

    The two-phase sleep pattern observed by Wehr corresponds remarkably closely to the way in which most Western Europeans slept between 500 and 200 years ago, according to historian A. Roger Ekirch of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg. While doing research for a book on nighttime behaviors during that era, Ekirch came across several hundred references to what he identifies as "segmented sleep."

    From country farms and villages to city apartments, early modern Europeans usually sank each evening into what they called a "first sleep," which lasted for several hours. Shortly after midnight, they awoke and spent 1 or 2 hours in a "watching period." A "second," or "morning," sleep followed.

    The watching period presented many opportunities, Ekirch notes. People coming out of their first sleep often stayed in bed to pray, converse with a bedfellow, contemplate the day's events or the meaning of a dream, or simply let their minds wander in a semiconscious state of contentment that was prized at the time.

    ...Read more here.



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    Senior Member Hilderinc's Avatar
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    Contemplate the day's events or the meaning of a dream, or simply let their minds wander in a semiconscious state of contentment that was prized at the time.
    Very interesting, in all my time doing the things mentioned above, I was never able to figure out why I had a 'segmented' sleep pattern, now I know.

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    Senior Member Wynterwade's Avatar
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    I'm going to try this right now. I'm tired at 6PM.

    People coming out of their first sleep often stayed in bed ....simply let their minds wander in a semiconscious state of contentment that was prized at the time.
    That sounds bizarre. I think I'll just read a book instead.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wynterwade View Post
    That sounds bizarre. I think I'll just read a book instead.
    It's the true form of 'resting.' Instead of eventually falling asleep, or being awake and not getting any energy out of your rest, you are actually 'resting.'

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    Senior Member Wynterwade's Avatar
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    It was one of the best rests I've ever had.

    After I woke up from the first sleep I pulled out my book "Meditations by Marcus Aurelius" and started reading.

    Right before I feel asleep I read, "Think of the totality of all Being, and what a mite of it is yours; think of all time, and the brief fleeting instant of it that is allotted to yourself; think of Destiny, and how puny a part of it you are." I couldn't stay awake any longer so I just thought about that quote as I feel asleep. It really was like I couldn't escape this half awake half asleep state- which lasted much longer than I'm used to. In a way it felt like I could control my dream- at least the beginning of it at least.

    I had some crazy dream about reliving my high school years, except society was much more organized (I was at a high school required internship) and society had low moral values (everyone was stealing stuff). I got in a fight with this one guy, then I awoke feeling more refreshed than ever.

    I wonder if that ability to control the onset of your dreams is why people liked this method of sleeping. It kind of allows your conscious to personalize the dream I guess. It's a strange feeling I'm not used to. It felt more natural than my usual- really long sleep- but maybe that was from sleeping for 10 hours long rather than the pattern. lol

    I'm going to print out the article and give it a closer read now because there definitely was something different about this sleep pattern than the usual long one I'm used to. I wonder if there's any health benefits to this pattern over multiple days of doing so.

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