Everybody knows that getting proper rest overnight is important, but what is enough sleep exactly and how does it look like?
Many people wake overnight and think that they’re suffering from some sleep disorder or health problem, and while it is possible, it may also be possible that sleep is not an all-night type of rest. According to some ancient references, there’s a whole new way we should be looking at sleep.
Segmented sleepIf you’re often waking up in the middle of the night, you might wonder if you are suffering from sleep apnea or insomnia. Segmented sleep is an irregular sleeping pattern that may not be a disorder, but a natural biological response that in modern times, have forgotten.
Roger Ekirch, an English scholar, says that our ancestor “practiced” segmented sleep by waking up in the middle of the night to pray, meditate or finish their daily chores. He found references to “second sleep” in centuries-old literature and documents written before the Industrial Revolution.
These in-between hours have been spent praying and were considered very relaxing. This may occur due to the period between the two periods is around midnight when the brain produces prolactin, a hormone that supports relaxation.
’Ekirch believes that ‘Modern day sleeping problems are connected to the natural preferences for segmented sleep in the human body.”
He also believes that our ancestral sleeping patterns, dating as far back as 15th century, are the main reason why some people are affected with ‘sleep maintenance insomnia,’ a condition that makes them wake up in the middle of the night not being able to go back to sleep.
Other scholars, including psychologist Greg Jacobs, also claim that segmented sleep is part of the normal human psychology. It is the idea of uninterrupted sleep that’s been embedded into our brains that causes anxiety in people. This anxiety in turns inhibits going back to sleep.
According to Russell Foster, a professor of circadian neuroscience at Oxford, also maintains that the reason why many people wake up at night is just an ancestral throwback to the bi-modal sleep pattern.
Still, many doctors can’t accept that the uninterrupted 8-hour sleep may be unnatural to humans despite the fact that one in three health issues which doctors deal with are directly or indirectly caused by sleep.
This aspect, however, has been overlooked by traditional medicine. There are only few centers where sleep is studied.
Our natural biorhythms are governed by exposure to light and darkness, which also dates back to our ancestors who scheduled their day around the rise and setting of the sun.