Saturday, August 23, 2014

Biphasic sleep or sleeping in segments sounds pretty good!

We completed our first full week of school yesterday at 3:00 and it was a success. The kids did very well and the teachers got into the swing of things very quickly.

The weather did not cooperate as usual, being August. Though I have to say that August 2014 has been relatively cool compared to previous years. Temps went above 100 for the first time this week so mostly we have been spared the searing high heat and soul-crushing humidity. And the temps usually break in mid September so even if we have a mini heat wave at this point, it will all be over soon.

Because of the heat we stayed inside for recess the last two days, but mostly the school week went well.

I enjoyed the kids, their little clean hair bows and new sneakers and shiny backpacks and light-up-the-world smiles when they figure out how to do something that's new correctly.

I was working with some kindergarteners, drawing. One boy drew a circle within a circle. Normally I just ask them to "tell me about that" because at that age, any line or squiggle could be anything from King Kong to an apple.

But the circle within a circle was drawn so perfectly that I felt it was safe to ask:

Is that a tire or a donut?
It's a potato!


I'm pretty tired actually. It was a busy week and my legs and feet are killing me. Today I awoke at 5:30 as I do every day and did nearly every day during summer. I got up and worked for about three hours, writing, reading the bible, and making oatmeal granola bars before it got too hot. Tired, I went back to bed until 10:00.

I've been working again, and I'll go to bed again after this session, probably by 11:30, for another nap.

I've been looking into biphasic sleep, or sleep segments. What I'm doing isn't sleeping in phasic, controlled segments, of course, it's just the sleeps and naps of the middle aged, sedentary, overweight, exhausted person. But, did you know, in middle ages, people didn't sleep for 8 solid hours and then get up for a day of work? That this sleep pattern is a new phenomenon?

Here is an article about biphasic sleep
For our ancestors as recently as a couple hundred years ago, this kind of nighttime darkness lasted up to fourteen hours (well, it does today, too, but we mask it with all that lighting and housing). Artificial lighting meant candles and firewood, and those cost (money or time) and don’t really replace daylight (anyone who’s stifled yawns around a campfire knows that) like today’s artificial lighting replaces daylight. People got to bed earlier – because, unless you’re rich enough to burn candles all night, what else are you going to do when it’s dark everywhere but, as Thomas Middleton said, “sleepe, feed, and fart?” – and their sleep was biphasic, or broken up into two four hour segments, with the first beginning about two hours after nightfall.

The first segment of biphasic sleep was called “first sleep” or “deep sleep,” while the second was called “second sleep” or “morning sleep.” Numerous records of these terms persist throughout preindustrial European archival writings, while the concept of two sleeps is common in traditional cultures across the globe. Separating “first sleep” from “second sleep” was an “hour or more” of gentle activity and wakefulness. People generally didn’t spend this time online gaming or surfing the web or trolling the fridge for snacks; instead, they used it to pray, meditate, chat, or to simply just lie there and ruminate on life, the universe, and everything. It was still dark out so they tended to keep it pretty mellow. Sounds nice, huh?
Polyphasic sleep is not the two segments of 4 hours each with at least one hour of waking in between. Polyphasic sleep is "the practice of sleeping multiple times in a 24-hour period—usually more than two, in contrast to biphasic sleep (twice per day) or monophasic sleep (once per day)" according to Wikipedia, which also quotes historians as saying segmented sleep used to be the norm.

This can be seen even today in the European and Latin American siesta.

I'm for the polyphasic sleep. Yes, that's the one I pick! Actually during the summer when I allow my sleep patterns to emerge naturally, I tend to go to bed between 10pm and midnight, sleep till about 3 am, wake for a while, sleep again until 6:00 am, get up, return to bed around 3:00 pm for a nap for hour or even two, and then repeat.

I'm going to agitate for a polyphasic sleep fan club picket line. I'd start it now but I'm too tired. Time for a nap.


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your segment very much today, God Bless You.

Grace to You said...

I've never heard of this before! I know several folks who suffer with insomnia, but maybe it's really not insomnia after all. I'll pass along a link to the article so they'll be encouraged to think about their sleep patterns in a different way. One thing insomnia sufferers seem to have in common is a terrible frustration with their would be nice if this information would help that part at least.