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A good night of sleep used to mean waking up sometime in the middle

By Dana Jordan
Published in History
February 02, 2024
2 min read
A good night of sleep used to mean waking up sometime in the middle

A Good Night of Sleep Used to Mean Waking up Sometime in the Middle


In today’s fast-paced world, it has become increasingly challenging to prioritize our sleep. With an ever-growing list of commitments and distractions, we often sacrifice the amount and quality of sleep we get. However, time and again, research has shown the undeniable importance of a good night’s sleep on our physical and mental well-being. But did you know that what we consider a good night of sleep has changed over time?

Historically, people used to have a unique sleep pattern that included two distinct periods of sleep separated by a period of wakefulness in the middle of the night. This biphasic sleep pattern, also known as segmented sleep, was a natural occurrence for our ancestors. They would go to bed after nightfall, waking up after a few hours, often in the middle of the night. During this period of wakefulness, they would engage in various activities such as reading, praying, or spending time with their loved ones before returning to sleep for another few hours.


Numerous historical accounts and literature references from both Western and non-Western societies shed light on this unique sleep pattern. For instance, Charles Dickens often mentioned segmented sleep in his novels, describing characters waking up during the night and engaging in thoughtful contemplation. Similarly, tales from the Arabian Nights depict individuals using this mid-sleep period for intimacy, storytelling, and quiet reflection.

However, as industrialization progressed, our sleep patterns changed. The invention of artificial lighting, modern work schedules, and social norms gradually shifted our sleep habits towards a more monophasic cycle – one prolonged period of continuous sleep. Today, most people strive to achieve 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, as recommended by sleep experts.

But does this mean that segmented sleep is no longer relevant or beneficial? Despite being less common in today’s society, some individuals still experience natural awakenings during the night. It is believed that these awakenings may be remnants of our ancestral sleep pattern, which can still be beneficial for our overall sleep quality.

While segmented sleep may not be the norm anymore, understanding our sleep patterns and striving for high sleep quality remains crucial. Quality sleep is associated with improved memory, mental agility, immune function, and emotional well-being. It is not just about the duration of sleep, but also the depth and consistency of sleep that matter.

In conclusion, a good night of sleep has evolved over time. Our ancestors experienced a biphasic sleep pattern, waking up in the middle of the night for a brief period of wakefulness. However, modern society has shifted towards a more monophasic sleep cycle. Nevertheless, as we strive to prioritize our sleep, it is crucial to understand the importance of quality sleep, incorporating strategies to improve sleep hygiene, and embracing our natural sleep patterns. So, let’s make the most of our nights by ensuring we get a good night’s sleep – whether that means embracing segmented sleep or prioritizing uninterrupted sleep.




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Dana Jordan

Dana Jordan

Science lover

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