It’s four in the morning. I woke up sometime after three, wide awake, after having gone to bed around 9:30 and drifting off to sleep around 10:30. That’s not unusual… after all, I do have a 5 week old infant, but even before I had him, I have experienced this wakefulness in the middle of the night for a long time. Usually I try to get back to sleep as quickly as possible, but tonight, I embraced it.
What are our natural sleep patterns?
Recent scientific and historical evidence suggests that humans have a natural wakefulness period in the middle of the night. Apparently, prior to the 17th century, it was common throughout the world for folks to sleep for about 4 hours, wake up for a couple more, then sleep for another 4. It was so common that it was referenced as a matter of course and acknowledged as what folks do in literature from all societies and walks of life.
Follow the Moon.
This concept really got me thinking. Lately, a lot of my fellow bloggers (like AnnMarie at CHEESESLAVE, and Donielle at Naturally Knocked Up) have been experimenting with the concept of “lunaception,” the practice of getting your body into the rhythm of following the moon’s cycle in order to balance hormones, and aid in conception. The idea is that due to our glut of light pollution, our bodies are unable to follow the moon’s cycle, and this has thrown off our own innate circadian rhythms. By sleeping in complete darkness (covering windows, putting out all nightlights, alarm clocks, etc.) and then having light during the three days around the full moon, we can get our bodies back into a better, healthier pattern.
Take a Nap.
How might this relate to the concept of a normal night waking? As well, I was wondering what the connection might be to the “siesta” as practiced throughout South America and much of Continental Europe. Are we designed to have a sleep cycle that includes a couple of hours of waking in the middle of the night, and a wakeful period that included a couple of hours of sleep in the middle of the day? Interesting ramifications, eh? Studies have show that we function better if we take a “power nap” or have a wind down period of rest sometime in the mid afternoon… Might we be able to enjoy better health if our sleep followed a cycle of waking and sleeping that was much shorter than we have been practicing? I don’t have the answers, but it is something I wish to explore further.
Go with the flow.
In the meantime, tonight I didn’t fight the wakefulness. Instead, I went to the bathroom, made a cup of chamomile tea, played with and nursed my newborn son (who enjoyed Mama’s night waking as well), and wrote this blog post. I feel myself winding down now, and am about to sign off to enjoy my “second sleep.” Embrace the waking. It just might be good for you!