The received wisdom is that we all need to sleep for about eight hours solid every night. However, this ‘fact’ is not actually that old and many scientists believe that it is actually an artificial routine that has been arbitrarily forced upon us. In many of the hotter countries today, and across the Anglo-European world in the past, most people had a far different sleep patterns, with many people having a sleep in the afternoon after lunch and then sleeping less each night, their evening sleeps essentially consisting of two long naps with a period of wakefulness in between.
Recently, scientists have been experimenting with sleep patterns by removing artificial light from people’s lives and they have discovered that most people will naturally revert to that former pattern where they will nap during the day and have two larger naps at night. They believe that the rise in artificial lighting and the increasing need for business to operate for a standard 9 hour day led to the dramatic change in sleep patterns in the developed world in the last century or so.
What this means is that if you find yourself waking in the middle of the night, do not get stressed about it and do not try to fight it. The best thing you can do is get up and do something for an hour or so before going back to bed.
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