May 05, 2017

Sleeping dogs. You should probably let them lie. Credit: Alex Harries / Flickr Creative Commons

Some people count sheep. Some people take Lunesta. Some people try to avoid blue light. Whatever you do to go to sleep, it looks pretty much the same once you get there. Around eight hours of uninterrupted dreamtime, on a bed, either alone or with a loved one. But, it wasn’t always that way. And it’s not even the standard throughout much of the world. Benjamin Reiss, author of Wild Nights: How Taming Sleep Created Our Restless World, talks about how sleep has evolved and changed over time.

Three Takeaways:

  • Before the 19th century, in most of Europe and North America, people would sleep in two shifts at night. After a few hours of dozing, they’d get up, pray, make love, or interpret their dreams… then they’d go back to bed.
  • We spend a lot of time training children to sleep on their own… and once they’re older we expect them to sleep in the same bed as their partner. Reiss says it’s no wonder so many people are light sleepers.
  • Sleep is very different throughout the world. There are siestas in Spain, season-dependent sleep in high latitudes, and cultures where communal sleeping is the norm. Reiss points out that there isn’t one standard way to sleep.
More Reading:

Body and Mind, sleep, Body & Mind, Benjamin Reiss, history

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