reading response

Day 19: "Indications of Segmented Sleep in the Bible"

Today I read an article from The Catholic Biblical Quarterly titled "Indications of Segmented Sleep in the Bible." I can't link you unfortunately, because this article is gatekept behind some paywalls - and I won't go on and on about how much that sucks here. The article was published in 2007, and spends a great deal of its own time referencing Roger Ekirch's book At Day's Close, published in 2005. 

"Indications" is an interesting article in that it gives some new translation suggestions for places in the Bible where the author, William L. Holladay, thinks that the original refers, not to various forms of vivid dreams, or spiritually induced sleep, but simply first sleeps and second sleeps - normal occurrences that pre-modern people experienced. 

Holladay's main argument is simple: "Inasmuch as biblical scholars have not heretofore taken note of the pattern of segmented sleep, I propose that it be considered as the background of several passages" (217). And while Holladay is clearly not trying to rock any biblical boats with these suggestions, I find his new translations fascinating and possibly implying some deeper, boat-rocking issues for translations of the Bible into English. 

 

Day 17: "Cock-Crow"

Today, I read the final chapter of Roger Ekirch's book At Day's Close titled, "Cock-Crow." In it, Ekirch brings together his main ideas, as any good conclusion will do, and gives us a few consequences of our ever-illuminated society. 

Image by Paul Cross

Beneficially, with a light-saturated nightscape, "reason and skepticism triumphed over magic and superstition" (325). Rather than fearing ghouls, ghosties and witches, we began to look at the night as an extension of day - a time when we could go for night walks and entertain. Gone were the days when we believed night air to be toxic (can you imagine?). 

Enter the days of gas lamps and organized metropolitan police. Ekirch reports that in order to combat night attacks from persons with devious intentions, "First in Westminster, then elsewhere, partrols grew more regimented, more numerous, and more aggressive, ultimately culminating in the creation in 1829 of the Metropolitan Police, followed several years later by parliamentary authorization for provincial police" (332). I found this very hard to believe, since the existence of police goes much further back in time than 1829, but here, Ekirch is apparently talking about a specific police force. Eventually though, people came to think of street lamps a a means of surveillance, and in times of turmoil and revolt, they would destroy the glass and break the poles - a symbolic gesture as much as a tactical one. 

Most affectual however, is Ekirch's claim that by losing the night, we are somehow losing a bit of ourselves: "With the transition to a new pattern of slumber, at once consolidated and more compressed, increasing numbers lost touch with their dreams and, as a consequence, a traditional avenue to their deepest emotions" (335). And several pages later, Ekirch writes, "truly a twenty-four/seven society in which traditional phases of time, from morning to midnight, have lost their original identities" (339). As I have conducted this experiment, I have come to think that maybe Ekirch has a point. I'm not sure I agree with him in a lost of 'original identity' - who could ever say what that is? - but I do agree that I feel much more in touch with my individual self - my self apart from the bustle of societal pressures and guidelines. I still am unable to tell whether or not my dreams are more vivid when I sleep in segments, but this may be due to the fact that my dreams have always been vivid. 

Someone asked me (in jest) whether or not our movement out of segmented sleep counts as evolution - clearly it wasn't an evolutionary move, as people changed to seamless sleep in their own singular lifetimes, but did they lose their identities in some way? I don't think so - I envision identity to be akin to matter - it doesn't ever disappear - it just changes into something else. 

Day 15: "The Myth of the Eight-Hour Sleep"

Today I read, "The Myth of the Eight-Hour Sleep" - a BBC article published in 2012. This will be an incredibly short response, because the article is essentially a regurgitation of what I have already read. It offers nothing new - it cites Ekirch, and Wehr, just like everyone else. This is so familiar, I am not completely certain that I haven't already read this article. 

The one thing it does have to offer is a handy breakdown of the stages of sleep. I leave that for you here:

Day 13: "Sleep We Have Lost: Rhythms and Revelations"

Once again, I made the correct choice completely by accident. 

On Day 11, I chose to read and respond to a shorter article called, "Modern Life Suppresses an Ancient Body Rhythm," and it turns out that much of the information in this 1995 article, fuels this twelfth chapter in Roger Ekirch's book, At Day's Close. This chapter, above all other chapters in this section on sleep, is about segmented sleep - for the most part. 

Interestingly, while there are names for 'first sleep,' and 'second sleep,' as I may have previously mentioned, there was apparently no common name for the period of wakefulness in between. I have been struggling on a personal level with what to call this period, and the idea that it may never have had a name, gives me less of a sense of a need for one. 

There isn't much left in this chapter which describes how we now believe segmented sleep to have happened - people were in meditative states, the prayed, they had sex, they talked - but the chapter does also mention that the poor often got up to no good: "At no other time of the night was there such a secluded interval in which to commit petty crimes: filching from dockyards and other urban workplaces, or, in the countryside, pilfering firewood, poaching, and robbing orchards" (306). And no wonder, since the poor were likely destitute to the point of starvation in many cases. So much for the rich feeling sad about the perfect slumber the poor workers must have gotten. 

The chapter also notes that the wealthy began first to sleep through the night as staying up late into the evening eventually came into vogue with electric lighting. But this practice would reportedly cut down on the vividness of dreaming that people have when they sleep in segments. 

I am unsure whether or not my dreams have been more vivid than usual, and I am normally a very vivid dreamer, but I'm going to try and pay attention to this, and see what I come up with. 

Day 11 - "Modern Life Suppresses an Ancient Body Rhythm"

Today is the USA v. Germany game. This means I will be doing a lot of yelling, and very little working. I decided to skip the next chapter in Ekirch's book - the chapter is on rhythms - and I chose instead to read a much shorter article, also about rhythms. The article is called "Modern Life Suppresses an Ancient Body Rhythm" and it reports on findings of segmented sleep way back in 1995. These findings, however, are not the focus of the article. 

Several rather interesting issues arise in "Modern Life." The scientists conducting the study are mental health care specialists looking at the difference in circadian rhythms between men and women. Going in, they had previously observed that women tend to naturally adhere to changes in seasons, and thus are a little more susceptible to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD - so appropriately named). What they found, in trying to find out more about male production of melatonin, is that if you stick a man in a dark room for 12 hours and tell him to sleep whenever he feels the need, he will very quickly adhere to a segmented sleep pattern. 

The authors equate segmented sleep to being pre-historic, but we know better 20 years later. They also found that these men, during wakefulness between sleeps exhibited, "distinctly nonanxious wakefulness in the middle of the night." Conversely, the authors label our normal 16-hour waking schedule, assisted by electric lights and coffee, "endless summer." For me, this term is wrapped up in a whole bundle of popular culture connotations that involve more "distinctly nonanxious wakefulness" than does being awake for 16 hours every day. 

A surprise I'm finding about participating in segmented sleep is that I feel much much more relaxed in general than I do when I adhere to normal, 'public' time schedules. 

Before I leave you, I MUST also mention something in the article that I will probably end up chasing down during the next half of this experiment (the 30 hour day half): The Clock Gene. Apparently there are people on this planet who have a gene that causes their circadian rhythms to operate on a 25 hour clock. At least, that's what they thought in 1995. Here is the wikipedia article on it - in case you feel like chasing that down before I do. 

I love that people with the clock gene are referred to as "clock mutants."