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There’s nothing like flying home to the Pacific Time Zone after spending time in the Central European Time Zone. You gain nine hours in the process, but the resulting jet lag is punishing to the body’s sleep cycle. Rapid travel across time zones disrupts our circadian rhythm — the inner clock that helps control when we fall asleep and when we wake up. In this article, we will go over some old-timer sleep secrets that can profoundly change your life for the better. Interestingly, these old-timer sleep secrets have great application in today’s jet age. They can provide you with an enhanced amount of daily energy, thereby giving you a boost in everything that you do.
After making the aforementioned journey this summer — and coping with the effects on my body’s natural rhythm — I have learned some fascinating information about sleep. What’s especially noteworthy is the notion that many of us may have the idea of “a good night’s sleep” all wrong.
Old-Timer Sleep Secrets: Segmented Sleeping
In fact, our common practice of sleeping in a single seven to eight-hour stretch is a product of modern invention, not natural tendency. Did you know our ancestors commonly slept in two segments each night? Yes, it’s true! And here we see the first of many crucial old-timer sleep secrets that can swiftly produce immense benefits. As detailed in an article at SlumberWise.com, researchers have found that prior to the invention and use of artificial light, most human beings slept in two segments over a longer span of time.
The concept of segmented sleep was first revealed by historian Roger Ekirch of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). In his research, Ekirch uses hundreds of references in letters and diaries dating as far back as Homer and Virgil and continuing into the 1800s to “first sleep” and “second sleep.”
Most people went to bed about 9 p.m. or even earlier. They then awoke sometime after midnight and stayed up for two to three hours before going back to sleep again until morning. The wakeful period was often used to read, write, or for quiet contemplation. This is certainly one of the countless old-timer sleep secrets that many people today have unfortunately forgotten.
The Most Natural Way To Sleep
Segmented sleeping, which occurred over a 12-hour period, was the standard way to sleep. Many researchers believe we would benefit from going back to this natural rhythm. For example, in a 1992 article published in the Journal of Sleep Research, Thomas Wehr found that in the intermediate waking period of segmented sleep, the body produces larger amounts of the hormone prolactin. Prolactin, which is responsible for lactation in mammals, often is called the “happiness hormone.” It is typically linked with relaxation and also helps the brain to function better.
Another benefit of segmented sleep is its effect on memory. Research shows that people who follow a segmented sleep pattern tend to remember information better (including dreams) and can stay alert longer. Many historical records reveal that people were active and creative during the wakeful period of segmented sleep. This time awake was embraced as a time to read, write, or socialize. It is quite a contrast with the panic most of us feel today when we feel wide-awake during the middle of the night.
The Wehr Study Proves The Effectiveness Of Old-Timer Sleep Secrets
In the 1990s, Wehr conducted a National Institutes of Health experiment on segmented sleep. He specifically wanted to find out if his subjects would fall into a segmented sleep pattern if they were removed from artificial light and distracting modern conveniences. His results were powerful.
For the first month, Wehr’s subjects were removed from every possible form of artificial light from dusk to dawn. During the first three weeks of the experiment, the subjects slept about an hour longer than they usually did. During the fourth week, however, things began to change.
The study participants slept the same number of hours as before, but they began to sleep in two segments. They started each night with about four hours of deep sleep. Then they woke for two hours of quiet rest before sleeping for another four hours.
During the time between the two “sleeps,” Wehr’s subjects were in a relaxed, meditative state. They were neither fully asleep nor fully awake. The subjects reported that they felt peaceful and serene during these wakeful periods.
Wehr discovered that prolactin reached elevated levels in their bodies shortly after dusk. The subjects remained at twice the hormone’s normal waking level throughout the full length of the night.
Getting Back To A Good Night’s Sleep
Historical research has shown that many of the world’s writers and thinkers created their works in the middle of the night.
According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control, nearly half of Americans say they do not get enough sleep. Many of us keep ourselves awake through the constant use of electronics, and sleep deprivation is a national health issue.
Could going back to the idea of segmented sleep help us to get the rest we need? Quite possibly, but unless we are willing to forego our lights and electronic devices, it is difficult to revert ourselves to this ancient practice. There are ways you can improve your sleep patterns, however.
Old-Timer Sleep Secrets From Harvard Medical School
- Avoid consuming chemicals that can interfere with sleep such as caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.
- Make your bedroom a sleep-inducing environment. Keep it dark and comfortable and keep electronic devices out of your bedroom.
- Establish a soothing bedtime routine to help induce sleep. Taking a shower or bath, or quietly reading in bed can prepare the body for sleep.
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule.
- If you take naps, keep them short and take them early. Try a power nap of 10 to 20 minutes before 5 p.m.
- Eat nutritious meals and get plenty of fresh air and exercise.
Whether you sleep in one eight-hour segment or in “two sleeps,” it is essential to rest your body. Think about the next time that you will find yourself counting sheep at 1 a.m, though. Why not try to get up to quietly read or to write down your thoughts? You may find that segmented sleep works for you. This is because of how effectively it can restore the natural rhythm and sleep pattern of your body.
You may also enjoy reading an additional Off The Grid News article: All-Natural Secrets To A Better Night’s Sleep 
What are your secrets and tricks to a good night’s sleep? Are you sometimes creative in the middle of the night? Share your thoughts in the comments below.