Walking the dog at 3AM

It's insomnia, at least according to standard definitions. I woke up at 2AM, lay in bed for a while before I decided to get up and go for a walk. The dog decided to accompany me, so off we went to the post office to drop a Netflix in the box. So much for getting a solid eight and being ready to a tackle a very busy week working, writing, and running.

The standard definition of insomnia, though, may be historically wrong. Newer sleep research indicates that people may not be hardwired for continuous sleep. Instead, a pattern of segmented sleep might be more healthful.

Historian A. Roger Ekirch noticed the pattern while reviewing original documents. In them, he found references to 'first sleep" and "second sleep." First sleep was from approximately sundown to midnight. A period of wakefulness sat from then to two or three o'clock, followed by the second sleep.

The modern solution is to add prescription drugs and knock the patient on their back. Better living through pharmacology - and substantial profits to the makers of sleeping pills.

Pill popping may be the solution to a problem of modern creation. The sleep, wake, sleep historical pattern changed (as theorized by Ekirch) when streetlamps changed the night, making it accessible, and then again when indoor lighting (not just candle powered) intruded into our lives.

Studies by Thomas Wehr reinforced this view when he tested eight men, forcing them into fourteen hours of darkness. At first, they simply removed the sleep debt they had acquired but then some interesting happened; they began to follow a segmented sleep routine, waking in the middle of the night for a couple of hours.

So the solution is simple, right?

Not really. To take advantage of the segmented sleep, you need to go to bed just after sundown. No television, no cell phones, no electric lights. It's a pretty radical prescription given the organization of our society.

I'll probably give this a try but not until fall, when the days get shorter. I'll let you know when I start - and how things proceed.