We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The "bi-modal sleep pattern"

If you're having trouble sleeping at night, Stephanie Hegarty's BBC article, "The myth of the eight-hour sleep," might be worth a look. According to the article, historical research suggests that until the late 17th century Europeans normally slept in roughly two four-hour periods divided by an awake period of an hour or two.  "First sleep" and "second sleep" was considered normal.  Things evidently began to change with the advent of street lights as well as changes in the way Europeans valued time.  Spending so many hours in bed was thought to be "a waste of time."

The article also suggests that at least some people who have "trouble sleeping," may actually still be trying to replicate this older sleeping pattern, which seems to be closer to what nature intended for us.  People who wake up in the middle of the night and can't go back to sleep aren't suffering from insomnia.  They just don't know that after a couple of hours they are supposed to go back for second sleep!


And a sermonic note: this morning's  sermon at First Presbyterian Church, Lowville, is from John 3:1-21 about the late night encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus, a respected Pharisee.  Commentators and preachers sometimes make much of the fact that Nicodemus "snuck off" to see Jesus late at night as if he didn't want anyone to know.  But, maybe Nicodemus there's nothing more to it than he went to chat with Jesus between first and second sleep.  During the day, both of them were busy.  Jesus, especially, had huge crowds following him around, so maybe it was just easier for Nicodemus to go see him between sleeps.  Jerusalem wasn't all that big a place in those days, so it wasn't likely that Nicodemus could keep the visit a secret, and he may not have really had any reason to do so.  It may be that nothing more is going on here than that he went to visit Jesus between sleeps, a time convenient for both of them,.  Or, maybe not.  We don't know, but it is fun to speculate!