Segmented Sleep Follow-Up

It's been nearly a week since I stopped segmenting my sleep on purpose. I'm gearing up this weekend to start the 2nd half of my sleep experiment - the 30 hour cycle. Here is what's been going on:

I've been using electric lights. The sun goes down, the lights are already on. It took me about 2 days to go right back to the way I usually sleep - without so much as a though or a bit of effort. The only thing I miss about that is that I liked having the candlelight. It was sweet and it was relaxing. So I may just use candlelight sometimes when I need calm. 

I've been naturally segmenting. Since I go to sleep somewhere between 11PM and 3AM, depending on what's going on, my natural wakefulness happens when it happens. For example, I got up in the middle of the night after having gone to bed at midnight - the time I woke was 5:38AM. I just woke up and sat on the end of the bed for a minute. I was hot, but that's all I really thought about. And I went back to bed. Last night, I went to bed around 1:30AM, and this morning about 7:15AM, I woke up for a good 20 minutes. 

What will really be interesting, I think, is if I naturally segment during my 30 hour cycle. Keep up with me here, and anything could happen in slumber-land. 

Day 20: Conclusions

It's over. Today I finished the first leg of my sleep experiment - Segmented Sleep. I kept a log of the hours I actually 'slept.' I put slept in quotations there because what I really did was log when I went to sleep. I didn't actually fall asleep at these minutes. I could never record that without someone watching me and recording it for me. As I said in the introduction - "I am not an expert," nor did I do this in a lab. I did it out of sheer curiosity. Below are my conclusions:

Log of actual bedtime and waketime hours during my experiment.

Log of actual bedtime and waketime hours during my experiment.

As you can see above, I went to bed each night between 9PM and 10:30PM. Much of this hinged on how my day was going - what was I involved in doing that day, who I was hanging out with, or where I was other than at home. You may also be able to see that I began getting out of bed later and later in the morning. I have found that my body - my female circadian rhythm - does not care at all that the sun has come up. She wants to sleep in the morning. There is little I can apparently do about this. I am not an earlier riser and likely never will be. 

Interestingly, and quite surprisingly, I found that getting up in the middle of the night - that nameless wake time between first and second sleep - was very easy. I woke up naturally 5 out of 20 of the nights. You can see that I indicated 'natural wake up' with an uppercase 'N.' I hypothesize I would have woken up naturally more often, had I continued to go to sleep earlier. 

Probably the most surprising conclusion I came to during this study was that I didn't feel I needed to force my body very often to wake up or to sleep. While I did use alarms, I used soothing alarms so I wouldn't startle myself out of a REM cycle unnaturally. This ended up meaning that I was more aware of my cycles during first sleep. And, like studies have shown, I slept deeper during second sleep, and had my most vivid dreams in the morning hours. 

Right from the beginning of the study, I wondered whether or not waking with others - family or communally - would make the process easier. I didn't have the pleasure of doing this communally, but I did find a friend who would participate in my mid-wake hours. And it is hard to place a value comparison on waking alone versus waking with another human. I enjoyed both quite immensely. I enjoyed the quiet reflective time in the night alone. And I equally enjoyed talking with someone. Last night, for my last purposeful wake time, I went out and had a beer with a friend. It was interesting because I felt like we were out much earlier, yet we were surrounded by the 1AM crowd, complete with drunk girls dancing near a pool table, and an ambulance showing up for some patio ruckus. The experience, while enjoyable because I was with a friend, was strange. I assume that if most people slept in segments, the 1AM crowd would be calmer, perhaps less drunk, and the experience would seem less artificial on my end. 

Over the course of the next few days, I'm curious to find out if I will wake in the night on my own, even though I will have no alarms or reminders set, I'll no longer be keeping a log, and no longer be writing about it. One thing I'm really looking forward to is having social time in the night, and not having to tell other adults that my bedtime is at 8:51PM. 

I plan on taking a week off from my experiment. I need a break from science. Please do check back, as I will likely have a follow up post on here soon. And I will be planning the 30 hour cycle as soon as I'm ready to experiment on myself again. 

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 18: Now I'm Just Messing Around

I read in several sources (which really means I read a bunch of sources about Roger Ekirch's source) that many people didn't even get out of bed during wakeful time - that nameless time between sleeps. So last night, I tried it. I was awake for roughly 5 minutes, of which I remember nothing except that I was awake. I think. 

The result was that today, I had as much, or more energy as/than I normally do. As I mentioned in one of the first posts, I have so much consistent energy, that it becomes somewhat overwhelming to people around me. I have noticed over the course of this study, that when I sleep in segments, I am much calmer, yet still well rested. Since I was barely awake last night, I slept for approximately 9-10 hours, which is my preferred number of hours when I adhere to my normal sleep schedule. Today, I was a bouncing (I literally bounce around the house on my toes) ball of energy. 

It's hard to place a value judgement on this dispersal of energy. One does not seem to be more productive than the other, though I find I eat a lot more when I have more energy. I'm not sure I even have a preference. It does, however, make me curious to know how this whole thing would fare for someone with a more normative energy level. 

Too bad I can't experiment on myself that way... 

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.