History of Sleep

You might think that back in the days where there were no city lights, traffic or a big night life people slept more peacefully and for a longer time but people rarely slept for eight hours in a row and we are currently living in the golden age of rest.

Back in the Neolithic era humans lived in tribes and their job was to hunt for food and move from one place to another so they didn’t actually have one permanent place to stay at and that made rest one of the last priorities. Also they did not have proper beds, they used ground-based nests, some stuffed grass and other soft materials to make it more comfortable.

But nights didn’t get better as civilization advanced. Some romans hated sleep and thought that it got on the way of getting work done, they didn’t leave much space for rest. Also the upper class stuffed mattresses with feathers and the poor people used hay instead.

The ancient Egyptians feared and respected sleep because the saw it as being close to death, they also starting to analyze dreams and went further into believing they had a deeper meaning. Still here sleep was short and days were long.

The renaissance was a really important moment for sleep, people where innovating in night time comfort. The mattresses got more comfortable and people started to make sleep a big deal. The industrial revolution changed sleep again, when the artificial light was invented people started not going to bed right after sunset, the days got longer but randomly our periods of rest did as well.

Roger Ekirch, professor of History at Virginia Tech in his recent research found that we didn’t use to sleep for eight hours straight but instead we used to sleep in two shorter periods in a longer night which was about 12 hours long. The sleep would begin with a three or four hours period then you would be awake for two or three hours and then slept again until next morning. They actually believed that the time when you were more energetic and ready to work would be in between the first sleep and the second one.

You might think It was an antique method but some man still use it now a days. In the early 90’s psychiatrist Thomas Wehr of National Institutes of Mental Health did a study on the sleep patterns. He actually made 15 man spend a month without being able to be on the daylight and they would only be awake for 10 hours, the other 14 they would be in a closed dark room where they could sleep, rest or meditate. At first they just slept once in the whole night but after a several weeks they started to have two sleeps without anyone telling them to, in those hours that they were awake between sleep they would meditate, rest and they wouldn’t stress about going back to bed.

So the time period of sleep and the conditions have surely change throughout time and we have always switched from sleeping a lot to not sleeping at all but as natural and necessary as sleep is it adapts to society and it shouldn’t be healthy to change it right away, so probably for the next years we will still have the same sleeping conditions that we have now and who knows what the future of sleeping brings us.




Adam Bulger, 31 March 2016 ‘A Brief story of how we slept, from 8,000 BCE to today’ viewed 29 August 2016, <https://vanwinkles.com/how-humans-slept-throughout-history-hint-it-mostly-sucked>

SlumberWise 2016, ‘Your ancestors didn´t sleep like you’, viewed 29 August 2016<http://slumberwise.com/science/your-ancestors-didnt-sleep-like-you/>

Perla David ‘Historia del sueño y su estudio’ , viewed 28 August 2016 <http://www.monografias.com/trabajos82/historia-del-sueno-y-su-estudio/historia-del-sueno-y-su-estudio.shtml>

Luke mastin 2013, ‘Sleep research timeline’, viewed 30 August 2016 <http://www.howsleepworks.com/research.html>




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