And you think you’ve got sleep problems?

Before the Industrial Revolution and the creation of better forms of artificial light, people had to make the most of the natural light. Which meant in bed by sunset. When I try to explain to my husband that my body simply is not strong enough to resist nature and therefore I cannot possibly help with bath and bedtime since I must be asleep by 7, he simply scoffs. History-denier!…

Sometimes as I lie awake at night, eating handfuls of melatonin gummies and resisting the urge to smother my husband for breathing too loudly, it helps me to remember one of the most important things I learned in my history PhD program: that back in the day, people slept in 2 distinct windows – 1st and 2nd sleep – which were divided by an hour or so of awake, active time in the middle of the night. So, though delicious, all those gummies are just fighting my natural circadian rhythms….

Some French medical manuals recommended that couples wishing to conceive children have sex during this between time. After they were well-rested from their 1st sleep. Oh the French! If my husband ever dared attempt this deed at 3AM, he would never get in my granny moo-moo again!…

You’ve probably heard of the “witching hour.” But did you know it was born out of this period between 1st and 2nd sleep? Since liturgical prayers stopped at night it was believed that demons had an easier time roaming free. Plus, since it was darker – and let’s face it, spookier – witches would have more freedom to do whatever it was that they did. And despite the Catholic Church banning activities between 3-4 AM in 1535, how could those naughty demons and witches be trusted?

FOOTNOTE: Roger Elkirch, At Night’s Close: Night in Times Past (2001)

Published by imworriedmytherapisthatesme

I'm a history-PhD-turned-stay-at-home-mom of three. When I'm not microwaving Trader Joe's meals for my kids, breaking up fights and wiping butts, I like to paint and write. To cope with the endless hours I'm spending with my son doing virtual school, I've abandoned my gouache paints for the more portable, less messy tried but true, paper and ink. While he learns to read to 20 floating heads on his screen, I sit on a tiny chair, at a tiny table pretending to be a productive adult.

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