Sleeping in This Day and Age: Following the Footsteps of Our Predecessors

Once upon a time, cavemen and Neanderthals roamed the Earth. With receding foreheads and prominent brow ridges, these ancestors of mankind featured a hunter/gatherer hierarchy during their reign. Their days consisted largely of staying safe, acquiring food, and sleeping.

In order to stay safe, these primitive beings started adapting stones and pieces of wood to create defensive weaponry. This defensive weaponry quickly became applicable to their ever-present quest for food as well because the global landscape was teeming with wildlife. However, when it came to the matter of sleeping, our ancestors generally kept things quite simple. In studying their prehistoric sleeping routines and comparing them to present-day practices, a host of interesting discoveries have come about.

This brief article will analyse some of the salient details of how we sleep today, how we used to sleep in the past, and how we can augment our lives to achieve more restful and deeper sleep.

Sleeping Used to be Quite Different

Before modern civilization came to be, mankind and its ancestors used to pay homage to the natural light cycle in each region. When the sun started to fade away into the night, people simply went to bed, regardless of the actual time of day. However, contrary to our standard belief that we all need an eight-hour block of sleep each day, people used to routinely wake up in the middle of the night.

In 2001, historian Roger Ekirch published a paper that summarized over 15 years of sleep-based research. Within the paper, some staunch realities came about. He quickly noticed that people didn’t used to adhere to the eight-hour block of sleep. Instead, he realized that people actually slept in a segmented fashion, with a three- to four-hour block of sleep followed by a few hours of active consciousness and then another three- to four-hour block of sleep. Ekirch observed a conserved shift in documentation around the 17th century as historians stopped mentioning this segmented sleep approach. With the rise of streetlamps and nightlife, people became much more conscious of the clock and developed a noticeable sensitivity to efficiency. This caused many people to place productivity and fun ahead of deep sleep. Fast-forward to the industrial revolution and the eight-hour block became commonplace throughout the world.

If you want more information on our historical sleep routines, you can read through Sleep Junkie’s thoughts about prehistoric sleep, which happens to be a very informative and revealing account.

Below you’ll find some helpful tips and tricks on how to improve your quality of sleep.

Sleeping in Today’s World

As mankind continues to reach new heights and push the envelope of existence, it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle in the midst of all the hustle and bustle. The easiest way to do this is by getting a deep and restful night of sleep every single day:

  • Stick to a Schedule: Regardless of whether it’s a weekday or the weekend, be sure to hit the hay at the same time each night. This will allow your body’s internal clock to stay on schedule.
  • Don’t Eat Before Bed: Rather than forcing your digestive system to work throughout the night, make sure your last meal comes at least a few hours before bedtime. This way, your body can focus on recovery and regeneration instead of processing your dinner.
  • Exercise: It’s hard to sleep if you aren’t tired! You should exercise for about one hour each day to maintain healthy fitness levels. An active lifestyle generally leads to deeper and more satisfying sleep.
  • Evaluate Your Surroundings: From the décor in your bedroom to the actual bed you sleep on, your surroundings play a big role in your ability to attain restful sleep. You should tinker with your mattress and the room’s lighting if you’re experiencing sleeping troubles. There are some fantastic ergonomic mattresses available nowadays, many of which are very affordable.

We all deserve a great night of sleep, and now that you are more informed on the history of sleep, you can start effecting changes in your lifestyle to finally get the rejuvenating rest you deserve.