A Good Night’s Sleep Is Hard to Find

| 12/11/2014 4:37:00 PM

Tags: sleep, dreaming, schedule, day, night, light, electricity, time, Soli Salgado,

Forget the recommended 7 to 8 hours of regular sleep. History has shown that inspiration and energy don’t come from the undisturbed hours we try to sandwich between bedtimes and alarms, but from their disruption. For information on how much sleep is recommended for different age groups, check out the article How Much Sleep Do I Need?

Like animals and insects, humans originally slept in increments, with a few hours interrupting the “first sleep” and “second sleep,” wrote A. Roger Ekirch, historian and author of At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past. That time was filled with praying, thinking, writing, sex, and discussion—activities our ancestors were too tired to do right before their initial sleep, but in “night-waking” would feel recharged and inspired, eventually drifting back into a second sleep after having a moment of peaceful stimulation.

Ekirch wrote that it’s likely people were deep in dreams right before waking up from the first sleep, “thereby affording fresh visions to absorb before returning to unconsciousness … their concentration complete.” Thomas Jefferson, for example, would read books on moral philosophy before bed so that he could “ruminate” on the subject between sleeps.

Those hours contain a sense of tranquility and natural rhythm that dispel distractions and inspire an optimal state of mind. “In the dead of night, drowsy brains can conjure up new ideas from the debris of dreams and apply them to our creative pursuits,” wrote Aeon magazine.

Psychiatrist Thomas Wehr of the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health found that at night, the brain experiences hormonal changes that enhance creativity, altering the state of mind. The hormone, prolactin, contributes to the hallucinations we have in our sleep but continues to produce during the “quiet wakefulness” between sleeps.

Sara M
5/17/2018 5:36:44 PM


Sara M
5/17/2018 5:36:40 PM

Love your magazine :) You're right, artificial light is ruining our sleep - blue light, specifically. I highly recommend getting blue light filters (http://www.sleepxp.com/best-blue-light-filter/) on your electronic devices, and shutting off electronics an hour before bed. It's made a huge difference in my sleep!

12/31/2014 9:16:06 AM

Perhaps I would have something wise to say if I didn't sleep so well