Getting a good night sleep every night is really important for our health, because it regenerates our body and mind. However, many people suffer from several sleep disorders such as apnea and insomnia.
Recent research has shown that sometimes sleep can stop in the middle of the night. That’s called “segmented sleep”. The man who discovered it, after 16 years of researches, is called Roger Ekirch and he is a Virginia Tech historian.
So, segmented sleep, also known as divided sleep, bimodal sleep pattern, bifurcated sleep, or interrupted sleep, is a polyphasic sleep or biphasic sleep pattern where two or more periods of sleep are punctuated by periods of wakefulness.
Ekirch proved that earlier generations had a first sleep just after dusk, followed by an hour or two of being awake, time often spent in a relaxed state of prayer or meditation. When they fell asleep again, they could sleep for hours, usually until next morning.
The period between the two different sleep-phases, often happening during midnight, when the brain produces prolactin- the hormone that stimulates the feeling of relaxation, was proven to be the most relaxing.
This scientist claims that ‘Modern day sleeping problems are connected to the natural preferences for segmented sleep in the human body.’
‘Sleep maintenance insomnia,’ the condition that makes people wake up in the middle of the night, is mostly caused by our ancestral sleeping patterns, dating as far back as 15th century, as Ekirch explains.
A professor of circadian neuroscience at Oxford, Russell Foster, also supports that the reason why many people wake up at night is just an ancestral throwback to the bi-modal sleep pattern.
Our natural biorhythms are influenced by exposure to light and darkness, which also dates back to our ancestors who scheduled their day based on the rise and setting of the sun.
That segmented sleep is part of the normal human psychology is also maintained by other scholars as well, including psychologist Greg Jacobs. It is the idea of uninterrupted sleep that’s been embedded into our brains which causes anxiety in people, that inhibits going back to sleep.
However, this aspect has been overlooked by traditional medicine and there are only few centers where sleep is studied. Many doctors, despite the fact that one in three health issues are directly or indirectly caused by sleep, cannot accept that the uninterrupted 8-hour sleep may be unnatural to humans.
Before advances in artificial lighting, segmented sleep was a normal sleep pattern for many people. We often worry about lying awake in the middle of the night – but it could be good for you. A growing body of evidence from both science and history suggests that the eight-hour sleep may be unnatural.