BBC World Service Explains: Is The Eight-Hour Night Sleep Requirement A Myth?

Lately I’ve had trouble staying asleep through the night.  I get up, off and on, between 2:00 and 4:00 a.m.  I can’t get back to sleep very easily once I’m up.  However, there’s a hidden reward to this staggered sleep pattern.

I’ve found this interruption to be a great time to meditate.  I’m already posture perfect to get into a meditative state.  It works wonders for carving out that hard to find time to meditate during the day.  It also puts me right back to sleep since it relaxes my psyche and I’m already snuggled into my comfy bed.

I was thankful to the BBC World Service when I read an article titled The Myth of the Eight-Hour Sleep by Stephanie Hegarty.  It was a great article explaining how, when and why we’ve come to the conclusion that a non-interrupted eight-hour sleep cycle is essential.

Thomas Wehr,psychiatrist, research scientist, and author, has explained that historical records of our ancestors sleep patterns show that they had two different bouts of interrupted sleep per night.  Perhaps they meditated like I’m doing to while away the time in bed.

It’s like a lot of other man-made rules in life.  Someone took a perfectly normal standard, twisted it a bit and claimed to be the authority in changing social patterns to fit their liking.  Many of the man-made rules are all about control and I don’t do well with one-size fits all.

I was so intrigued by this story that I decided to find out more from various sources besides the BBC World Service story.  Somewhere along the line, I envisioned how the historical distortion might have taken place:

  • 800-600 B.C. – Homer’s Greek poem, The Odyssey, there is a passage that states, “In his first sleep, call up your hardiest cheer.”
  • 1490 – Leonardo da Vinci, slept for 15 minutes once every two hours (although this hasn’t been confirmed)
  • 15th Century – Most people stayed in bed, read, wrote and often prayed.
  • 1769-1821 – Napoleon Bonaparte said, “six hours sleep for a man, seven for a woman and eight for a fool.”
  • Late 17th Century – References to first and second sleep began to disappear
  • 1829 Medical Journal – Urged parents to force their children out of a pattern of first and second sleep
  • By the 1920s – The idea of first and second sleep had receded entirely

Do you think the culprit might be Napoleon Bonaparte?  Maybe it’s us?  Newborns have it all figured out until we go and mess up their sleep schedules because we’ve bought into the myth.

If you aren’t getting a perfectly, uninterrupted night’s sleep, don’t get up and read or complain that you aren’t getting a good night’s sleep because your problem will just get worse.  Replace these waking hours with meditation and I’ll guarantee you that you’ll feel better too.

Maybe I’m one of those annoying people I dislike who try to change social patterns.  I hope not, because meditation works, lol!

I send you my blessings and wishes for a prosperous and abundant life!

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