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Has artificial light changed sleep patterns?

04-05-2012

A number of studies have shown that sleep patterns differ quite dramatically across different cultures, with one of the biggest differences being seen between societies that have artificial light and those that do not.

Put simply, in societies that do not have artificial light, researchers have found that most people had more broken patterns of sleep whilst in societies that do have artificial light, sleeping patterns are far more likely to be solid.

Many people today assume that humans have always slept in one solid eight hour block at night, but this is only a creation of artificial light. Humans that do not have artificial light would often wake in the middle of the night. In fact, the idea of the first and second sleep was common up until the middle of the 19th Century when it gradually started to fade. People would fall asleep earlier than we do now, once it had got dark. They then sleep for 3 to 4 hours before waking for several hours, then falling back to sleep until dawn.

Artificial light has totally changed the way humans sleep, keeping us up later and turning our sleep into a single block, so next time you switch that light on, take a second to think of what it was like before these devices were invented.


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