February 22, 2012

First sleep, second sleep.

I've written about this subject before. In 2006, I was amazed: "That's not insomnia, that's the natural sleep pattern breaking through!"
I'm fascinated by the idea of valuing this wakeful interlude by engaging in activities that, for one reason or another, are done especially well in an hour between two sleeps.
But here's a new article on the subject at BBC.com that a reader pointed out, and it made me want to revive the subject:
"For most of evolution we slept a certain way," says sleep psychologist Gregg Jacobs. "Waking up during the night is part of normal human physiology."

The idea that we must sleep in a consolidated block could be damaging, he says, if it makes people who wake up at night anxious, as this anxiety can itself prohibit sleeps and is likely to seep into waking life too.

Russell Foster, a professor of circadian [body clock] neuroscience at Oxford, shares this point of view.

"Many people wake up at night and panic," he says. "I tell them that what they are experiencing is a throwback to the bi-modal sleep pattern."
When I first heard about this back in 2006, I thought it might "change my way of living":
I have been thinking that it's just terrible to go to bed as early as 9 only to wake up and see that it's midnight. I've thought that it's important to stay up late enough that you won't just be taking what turns out to be merely a nap, a sleep snack that spoils my appetite for a full meal of sleep. Now, I'm going to think, it's time for first sleep. On waking at midnight, instead of thinking, oh, no, there's no way I can start the day this early if I can't get back to sleep. I'm going to think it's a valuable opportunity, use the time, and feel confident about the arrival of the wholly natural and not at all weird second sleep.
Ah! But I did not change my way of living. And just last night, I encountered and experienced as a problem the very thing I was going to reconceptualize as a valuable opportunity. How fortuitous to have this reminder today!

19 comments:

The Unknown Pundit said...

Wha.... Wait.

Sorry. Dozed off there.

Original Mike said...

Unfortunately, sleeping in two blocks is difficult when you have to get up at a certain time. I'm struggling with this right now. I'm looking forward to retirement when I can sleep or not on my schedule.

Rob said...

The iPad, kept next to the bed, is a great implement for the wakeful interlude. Check your email and twitter feed, surf the web a little, then go back to sleep secure in the knowledge you're totally up to date.

traditionalguy said...

Awaking once at 3 AM , getting a drink, and then going back to bed for the second 4 hours sleep is fine. Call that evolutionary if it makes sense and explains it.

But SERIOUSLY watch out for sleep disorders. These are chronic breathing stoppages 18 times or so an hour followed by a sudden spasm that get your breathing going again but does not awaken you enough that you remember it.

The disorder is easily treated by a C-pac machine, but if left untreated it has serious consequences beyond being tired in the AM. It can cause Atrial fibrillation that can cause blood clots that can cause sudden death.

paul a'barge said...

4:00 am. That's the average interlude between my first sleep and my second sleep.

And the period of time I spend thinking through stuff, or just chatting with my wife (whom I wake up because well, it's time for my between-sleeps break so must it be her time) is of great value. I use it often to pray.

How nice to know it's a feature not a bug.

EDH said...

I'm fascinated by the idea of valuing this wakeful interlude by engaging in activities that, for one reason or another, are done especially well in an hour between two sleeps.

Me, I'm fascinated by the plural "sleeps".

Nightmares

Every time I take my sleeps
Then you come and you give me the creeps
In my nightmares
Thinking about getting together with you

Everytime I fall asleep
Then you fuck her I'd like to creep
In my nightmares
Thinking about getting together with you
Thinking bout getting back together again with you

Nope nope I wouldn't say so
I would not call it a curse
But what worries me then
Is when I wake up It might be worse

EDH said...

Hmm, did I just make a subliminal comment about deciding whether to resume commenting on Althouse, now that Blogger has at least removed that ridiculous dot from Captcha?

In my nightmares
Thinking about getting together with you
Thinking bout getting back together again with you

Nope nope I wouldn't say so
I would not call it a curse
But what worries me then
Is when I wake up...

It might be worse

roesch/voltaire said...

Yes when I first read about this it did take out the anxiety for my self and for my wife, who likes to read or work at three in the morning. And sometimes I remind her of what the French called this pause between first and second sleep.

edutcher said...

I have a lot of trouble if that second sleep doesn't come soon after I lay back down again.

Waking The Blonde is asking for trouble, but there might be something we could do together to make me nod off.

PS tg is right about sleep disorders. I have restless leg and it can be pretty scary.

Original Mike said...

First sleep, second sleep"

Rminds me of this:

Aragorn: Gentlemen! We do not stop 'til nightfall.
Pippin: But what about breakfast?
Aragorn: You've already had it.
Pippin: We've had one, yes. But what about second breakfast?
[Aragorn stares at him, then walks off.]
Merry: Don't think he knows about second breakfast, Pip.
Pippin: What about elevensies? Luncheon? Afternoon tea? Dinner? Supper? He knows about them, doesn't he?
Merry: I wouldn't count on it.

WineSlob said...

Bodily Function Bifurcation
As in Starvation or Sleep Deprivation
Is All Well and Good
But is More Commonly Understood
In the Exhilaration of a Second Defecation.

Coketown said...

Can you all admit that this has nothing to do with some evolutionary process and everything to do with the fact that you're old and your failing faculties require you to get up once a night to pee?

Don't worry. Another few decades and I'll be there, too.

Original Mike said...

Once a night, Coketown???

You're in for a rude awakening.

(pun intended)

rhhardin said...

I get up and stay up. It's free time.

The dog concurs.

Jennifer said...

About a month ago, my six year old said something to me about her second sleep and it jolted me back to your post years ago. Apparently, this is something she has noticed, identified and accepts as just the way it is. And now I'm officially curious just what it is she does between her first and second sleeps.

Jennifer said...

Also, wow. I didn't realize I had been reading Althouse for so long. Must be at least 8 years now! So, thanks for the daily dose of interesting.

sleepless nights said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
amyarizona said...

Throughout most of history wine, beer, or spirits were more popular than water. It is a common phenomena to wake after a few hours sleep when you have been drinking liquor.
I have seen several articles which address this 'first sleep. second sleep' but have never seen anyone make the connection. Allow me to be the first.

amyarizona said...
This comment has been removed by the author.