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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 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 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."

Day 7 - Ordinances of the Bedchamber: Rituals

Today I read Chapter 10 in Roger Ekirch's book At Day's Close. The chapter is a bit of a lead in to sleeping pre-industrially. This section has 4 chapters, all of which have a slightly different focus. I'm going to keep this brief because USA v. Portugal. 

The chapter was split into four sections, each focusing on different ideas. The most interesting to me were the ones that discussed digestion and beds. I love two things in life right now: food and material theory. 

In the first section, Ekirch explains that in the late 16th century, learned peoples believed that the digestion of a meal is what caused people to eventually sleep. For example, one Thomas Cogan (1588), explains that "fumes ascend to the head 'where through coldnesse of the braine, they being congealed doe stop the conduites and waies of the senses, and so procure sleepe'" (263). - My immediate question then becomes - what happens if I don't eat all day? Do I not, then, sleep? And why didn't anyone test this out? 

The other bit I find fascinating is that apparently, for people who could afford it, a bed was the most expensive item that many middle-type class people would own. Oftentimes whole families would sleep in a giant bed together. Many times the matresses would be stuffed with feathers, or old rags. And a lot of people believed that a soft bed would lead to sloth and stupidity. 

As we might guess, no one could decide the proper length of needed human sleep, and no one studied women, or their sleep needs. It wouldn't be until the late 20th century that anyone finally gets around to that. 

 

Day 1 - "The Everything Guide to Sleep"

Today is Day 1 of my segmented sleep routine. I didn't wake up with the sun today, but I am going to sleep with it - and that's the hardest part for me - getting to sleep. I have a lot (A LOT) of energy at night. Because of this, I decided to start with a simple article from New York Magazine published in this week's issue. It's called "The Everything Guide to Sleep" by Jason Feifer. 

The article is split into 6 distinct parts, of which I will talk about 4. Overall, I found the article flashy and sort of distracting with too many pictures and divisions and not enough useful information. But hey - it's a popular magazine. Further, it suggests that electric light has something to do with the trouble people have sleeping, but it never directly states this. I am looking into the matter. See above for the full article. 

Feifer starts us off by telling us that "Getting sleep is not easy." I completely (personally) disagree with him. This is one of the reasons I chose to do this experiment. On myself. I sleep 8-10 hours every night. And while I do have a hard time calming down and getting to sleep - I don't have a problem sleeping. Feifer does cite an article on 'metabolite clearance' in Science journal, which I had to creatively track down since magazines only reference, and don't make proper citations. In the reference, Feifer claims that "sleep, in effect, takes out the trash." I find this to be a no-duh moment, but I'm going to read that one later and see if there's anything else to it. 

Section 1 of "The Everything Guide to Sleep" is interesting and has a few pointers from some medical expert that gives tips for a lot of different kinds of people. If I ever become an on-call doctor - I will NOT be sleeping on my pager. Talk about uncomfortable. One bit that I found personally useful was the back-up for my own lifestyle. Here, the expert claims that "biologically, some people function better at night." That would  be me. One less reason to have to justify how that makes me somehow less of an adult. 

I also found parts of Section 5 useful. I take melatonin sometimes when I just can't get it together and get to sleep. I was told (by a very unreliable source), to take a few, and then lay down and stop moving. But here the recommendation says, "take it two hours before you want to sleep and then stay in dim light. But don't make this a nightly habit. Melatonin can cause wild or violent dreams, and in animal testing has been shown to shrink testicles." Well - my unreliable source, who takes this every day, often has "wild or violent dreams" - so that answers some questions.

Section 6 gives a few instructions on lucid dreaming, which I find fascinating, since I am a naturally lucid dreamer.  But it has nothing to do with this experiment, so it only gets a mention.

Last, I leave you with the really cool infographic a bunch of people sent me in preparation for this study: http://nymag.com/health/bestdoctors/2014/genius-sleeping-habits-2014-6/?mid=facebook_nymag - I apologize as this is my first time using this blog in this way. I'm still trying to figure out the gears. I linked you above. I love infographics, and this one is pretty cool, but I have one question for the designer: Do we REALLY think these people slept these hours all the time? Isn't this a bit misleading? What, exactly, are your sources? Here is his website, if you need to contact him.

Tomorrow, I will begin the narrative portion of my journey through segmented sleep cycles. For now, I have to figure out exactly how I'm going to get myself up in the middle of the night. 

Yussss... I figured it out.