Interesting stuff happens at night. We all know that the TV networks schedule their best shows during prime time. Concerts and plays generally start at 7:30 or later. I love performing every Tuesday night at 8:00 p.m. and I love going to events on other nights of the week. I often meet people who say it’s too late for me to be out. I disagree.
I wake up at 4:30 a.m. on weekdays, which is about two or three hours earlier than most people. When I get tired in the afternoon, I go back to bed, usually for about three hours. Splitting my sleep schedule allows me to stay up late enough to watch prime-time TV or go to the circus or other event.
Segmented sleep used to be the norm. A great article by Stephanie Hegarty of the BBC World Service discusses “the myth of the eight-hour sleep” and refers to the book “At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past” by historian Roger Ekirch of Virginia Tech. In the days before streetlights, people went to bed when it got dark but would awaken in the middle of the night. They would stay up for a while before going back to sleep. Persecuted Catholics held church services in secret in the hours between their first and second sleep.
Today, most people seem to have adapted quite well to the eight-hour sleep, but Ekirch believes many sleeping problems may have roots in the human body’s natural preference for segmented sleep as well as the ubiquity of artificial light.