Day 16: Bring on the Electric Lights

I messed with my experiment by accident yesterday. 

I sat down around noon to begin writing the literature review portion of my dissertation prospectus (a heady endeavor to be sure), and next thing I knew, there was a pile of dishes I don't remember creating, and the sun had gone down - but I hadn't turned down the lights as the sun set. 

I suspect the reason I forgot to turn the lights off was because I was completely unaware that I should be getting tired because I was otherwise occupied. It could also be because I was busy consulting actual, physical texts, and candlelight would not have been conducive to massive text consultation. 

I noticed two things, as soon as I figured out the sun had gone down:

1. Electric light absolutely has an effect on my ability to get tired. 

2. I can decide whether or not to be tired - at least I can when I'm regularly getting enough sleep. 

I went to sleep last night the latest I have yet - at 10:39PM. And according to Benjamin Franklin, I was being rather ill-behaved. Even so, I woke up just after 8AM, so my body didn't try to make up for the lost hour, as I suspected it would. 

Tonight though, I am back to candlelight, and yet... not tired again. I have about 3 day to get to the bottom of this. Perhaps it's because I get energized when I'm having long writing days. Perhaps it is something else entirely. 

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 14: Spontaneous Adventure

As I suspected, I have begun to experiment with this second half of my segmented sleep study. Two nights ago, I left from Decatur, GA to visit a friend in Augusta, GA, completely spontaneously. For those of you on the west side of this country, this is roughly the same distance as Flagstaff to Phoenix. 


The selling point for me was that my friend was willing to let me continue my sleep experiment at his house, and he even agreed not to use electric lights during the night time hours. It mostly worked the way we planned. I arrived at his place at almost exactly 9PM, famished. He made some food, which needed a small electric light aid, but for the most part, I remained light free. Of course I was tired from my now normal sleep routine, and the 2 hour drive on an unfamiliar highway. I also have never eaten an actual meal right before bed like this before. I wonder sometimes whether my hyper-consciousness over my own digestion is due to my own noticing of it, or whether it's due to my continual reading about pre-industrial obsession with human digestion. 

I had a little trouble falling to sleep because I could hear my friend moving around the house, and there were a lot of blue blinking lights that my house lacks. But it didn't take long. The whole thing went just as it usually does, except there was another person to be awake with me, which I have been wanting to try since the beginning of this. 

It was really nice having someone to hang out with and talk to in the middle of the night. Nothing else was different than normal - I could tell I had just eaten; I was very thirsty; I was incredibly calm - but it was a different calm since I could chat with my friend. 

The next night, he volunteered to go to sleep at the same time as me, and wake up in the middle of the night with me, and so on. The result was that we stayed up nearly twice as long in the middle of the night. I felt suddenly like there was so much more to do, even though we had no intention of going anywhere, or doing much. It was incredibly pleasant - having another person there to share the darkness and the generally unfamiliar quiet of between sleeps. This answers one of my first questions that arose when I began this study: "Was it easier and more worthwhile to be awake for several hours in the night when your family/community was also at it?" 

The answer, I believe is decidedly 'yes.' As long as you like your family/community, getting up in the middle of the night and hanging out, or whatever it is you naturally do in the waking hours, should be easier, and more pleasant in general. 

Sharing is nice. 

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 12 - Reflecting on the Night Off

As you may know, if you have read my previous entries, I took the night off from the experiment a couple of nights ago. It was fun, to say the least, and it also shed a little light on how I have been feeling during this experiment, reinforcing some ideas, and introducing others. 

Wednesday night, the night of Day 10, I went with a friend to a speakeasy-style bar and we hung out with his rather interesting friend, the bartender. At first, I was SUPER tired. By 10, it felt like it was 2AM. But we had a good time - we debated monopolies with an AT&T employee and there was some friendly yelling about capitalism. And by 1AM, I was wide awake, and could easily have continued on with the night. But I wanted to get some reasonable sleep, so I went home and slept directly through the night until 9AM. 

The next day, I felt amped. I was excitable, and kind of jumpy. And I was hungrier. I felt guilty about skipping the experiment for one night, but when I realized how much difference I could tell between how I felt after sleeping all night, versus in segments, I thought it was worth it. 

Last night, I went back to normal, though it was hard to fall asleep after having slept until 9AM. 

Tonight, I go on a totally spontaneous adventure to visit a friend in Augusta. I'm bringing candles, and we'll see what happens. This friend has graciously agreed to hang out with  me, sans electric lights, in the middle of the night. I suspect the rest of this experiment (8 days left) will be filled with me just sort of messing with it to see what happens...