Biphasic Sleep, or Why I wake up at 3AM

For the past few weeks I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night.  I’m usually awake for an hour or two, but I usually fall back asleep until I need to wake up for the day around 5 or 5:30.  This pattern has been starting to frustrate me, as it sometimes makes me tired in the afternoon.  And, as anyone knows who works in a cubicle at an office job, sleepy afternoons = sugar cravings & trips to the vending machine.

I ran across this post on this morning, though, that made me look at this sleep cycle in a different way.  Evidently, it was common for our ancestors to wake up in the middle of the night.  This hour of wakefulness was used for meditation and contemplation.  I love this quote from the article:

Robert Louis Stevenson liked the idea, too. Sleep historian (awesome-sounding job!) Roger Ekirch writes of Stevenson who, in the fall of 1878, while trekking through the French highlands on foot, alone, made a remarkable discovery. As anyone who backpacks or spends time outdoors will corroborate, Stevenson found himself drifting off to sleep shortly after sunset. He awoke around midnight, smoked a cigarette, and, only after “enjoying an hour’s contemplation,” fell back asleep. That hour, that “one stirring hour” moved him; Stevenson had never before experienced a “more perfect hour.” He had awoken not because of an interloper, a night terror, or any other external actor, but because of what he later described as a “wakeful influence [that] goes abroad over the sleeping hemisphere” and is unknown to “those who dwell in houses.”

Read more:

The article goes on to say that like most things, perception affects your reality, or makes your new reality.  If, instead of getting frustrated and worked up about the 2 or 3AM wakeups, you view it as an opportunity to relax in a different way, the interruption in your sleep can actually be a good thing.

I’m going to have to try this approach when I wake up tonight at 3AM again.

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