So the other day I’m standing in the supermarket line waiting to get some stuff with Paulette at the checkout. And there’s this guy in front of us loading on case after case of high energy drinks, and it struck me that there’s a lot of caffeine in there and of course these are whatever, however it’s tarted up basically high energy drinks are about getting a buzz, getting yourself on a dream surge, and all of that usually done through some form or another of caffeine, whatever the flavour may be. Anyway, we finish there, we go to the pharmacy, and there I see this person who’s getting their prescription filled for their sleeping tablets. And it just struck me, both of these products are in ever growing demand, certainly in the US. And so you’ve got these two kind of extremes, where people are getting ever more wired and on the other hand you’ve got people who can’t sleep and needing sleeping tablets. And I wonder if they’re all being consumed by the same people. We don’t know. Not necessarily.
Either way, it just set me off on a train of thought about sleep generally, and how it’s changed so dramatically since the invention of the electric light bulb. So much so that most people have no conception of how the human race has, for most of their existence, had a completely different sleep pattern to what we now take as normal. And you don’t have to go that far back to find out, to see examples of it. In fact, if you go back pre Industrial Revolution, it’s a very different world, specifically about how people would sleep. And the way it would work, there are lots of examples of this that make it very clear, how the pattern was once upon a time. And then, actually there’s one really good example of this, in the Canterbury Tales, in the Squire’s Tale, if I remember correctly, where there’s a reference to the woman having her first sleep. And then, what is her first sleep? Well that’s what used to be the norm, that the sun would go down and then a little while after the sun went down, you’d go to sleep. But you didn’t go to sleep and stay asleep right the way through the night, no that was your first sleep. You’d wake up quite naturally, spontaneously, somewhere about midnight or a little thereafter, then very common to get up do something for an hour or so, and then you’d go back to bed and have what was called your second sleep.
And that was the way it was, every day of your life. Your first sleep and your second sleep. And there are, there’s oh gosh, all sorts of interesting examples of what was associated with the space in between the first sleep and the second sleep. There’s there’s a medical book that was written about how it was a very good thing that you should sleep on one side for the first sleep and on the other side for the second sleep, and that the space in between the two sleeps were supposed to be particularly beneficial and indeed lots of people of course, would wake up, have sex, go back to sleep. And you’d be more refreshed after you’d had that first sleep.
Well that’s not the way it is any longer of course. But the interesting thing is, if you put people in environments where there’s no electric light, this is the pattern that will gradually appear again. And it’s also often found in tribal cultures that haven’t been influenced much by the West. So you get this completely different way of thinking about sleep, and quite, where does the siesta fit into all that? Well I don’t know, but again what’s the rhythm that would make it even easier for anybody to feel more relaxed, more energised, not just wired and tired?
And I think it may be useful for people to know that it’s absolutely okay to go to bed early, wake up, potter about, go back to bed, go back to sleep. If that suits you, feel free, go ahead. And the electric light bulb is what changed it all of course, because we just kept going until we passed out basically. But how odd it is as a way of functioning, for me was brought home when there was a power cut in LA, in I think it was 1994, and all the lights went out and people suddenly had a new experience of their world. And there were lots of reports to the police to report a giant silver cloud that appeared in the sky. And people were very concerned about what it was . And guess what it was. It was the Milky Way. No one had seen it before, because all the lights and suddenly the world opened up in a new way. Welcome to the Cosmos.
Food for thought.
‘Till the next time.
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