sleep in history and culture
notes by Sandra Dodd unless otherwise indicated
Many of our fears and disconnects very likely are related to our odd habits and beliefs about sleeping separately, or at least forcing children to sleep separately. Rumor and assumption is that it comes from Victorian "science" and ideas about breathing other people's germs, and about the affluence of having individual rooms (and poorer people copying that affluence when possible) but looking around even in my own family, the theory doesn't really hold. Poorer families in the mid-20th century shared rooms, but weren't proud of it so it wasn't held up as right and good.
In the U.K, people seem more likely to sleep with a window open, than in the U.S.
In India, I think families are more likely to sleep in the same room, if not in the same bed.
I'm going to collect things I find that might shed light on what is "natural" or at least what the range of belief and practice is. No one will ever collect it all, but I'm going to keep this page to collect what I come across.
Is “8 Uninterrupted Hours a Night” Flawed Conventional Wisdom?"—the first thing I ever read about biphasic sleep. I left this comment:
I like the sentinal theory. I’ve often thought that teenagers’ propensity to stay up late might have been very useful in “the old days” (caves, camps or castles) because they could keep watch while they talked to each other. And their sleeping in the daytime while others are awake is seen as sloth in modern days by too many people, but I think as long as they get sleep, it shouldn’t matter so much what time it is. http://sandradodd.com/sleep
2013 article with some examples of evidence: How Our Ancestors Used to Sleep Twice a Night and Highlighting the Problem of Present Shock by Jeremy D. Johnson
2012: The myth of the eight-hour sleep, by Stephanie Hegarty, BBC News
How to Sleep like a Hunter-Gatherer, book review with lots of info at Discover Magazine
Sleep We Have Lost: Pre-industrial Slumber in the British Isles A. Roger Ekirch, The American Historical Review, April 2001
On a site called "Paleohacks" they discuss bimodal or segmented sleep here: How does bimodal/segmented sleep feel? and Anyone getting less sleep on a paleo diet?
Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sleep (But Were Too Afraid To Ask) By Bora Zivkovic | August 29, 2011 |
Science-based commentary and humor, more than research, but it is at the Scientific American blogs site and has some interesting things.
Wild Nights: How Taming Sleep Created Our Restless World Benjamin Reiss, 2017
reviews/commentary on various sites:
An essay by Benjamin Reiss, the author, at Powell Books