First and second sleep: an occasion for meditation or medication?

alarm clock

I have to say that one side effect of LDN is deep, dreamful  and restful sleep. You go into cat-time on LDN: Sleep, nap, Sleep, snack, nap . . . er, work). Honestly, if I don’t stand up in the morning in order to wake up sufficiently to stagger to the toothbrush, I could sleep all day.

Once up, thanks to toothbrush and a splash of cold water, though, I’m rested and alert, and ready to go.

However, once in a while, a switch seem to be flicked and I have periods of wakefulness. Usually this is short-lived.

I routinely find myself awake in the middle of the night under certain circumstances:

  • I anticipate more than three consecutive days off-work, and am happy and relaxed. The longer I have off, the more persistent the habit of waking
  • there’s a seasonal change
  • I feel a cold or other illness coming on
  • I’m just unusually stressful and hopeless-tired and go to bed early

What do you do when you find yourself wide awake in the middle of the night? It’s only to be expected if you are so tired, you go to bed super-early, right? Or if your mind won’t stop chattering, right? You might wonder how this wakefulness is going to effect your day, come morning. I fret that I might have wrecked my sleep cycle by not getting a straight-8. Maybe?

Worrying like this makes it worse.

But, unless I happened to be in pain, super-stressed, or getting a cold, I actually had to admit, I felt great in the morning, despite that wakeful interlude.

I subscribe to an  email service from, which describes itself as:

a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context.  There is no theme, except that most excerpts will come from a non-fiction work, mainly works of history, and we hope will have a more universal relevance than simply the subject of the book from which they came.

I more often than not find the content interesting.

As an example, this article from Delancey:

Really? We did?

After reading this post, I no longer worry about it when I have two sleeps. In fact, when time permits, I try to make it happen as often I can.

Turns out it was a common practice–particularly before electric lights, to go to bed when the sun went down (mostly because you were physically exhausted), fully expecting to wake up later, do things, and then go to bed again until dawn.It still happens in some places where artificial lights and power are not usual at night.

The time between the two bouts of sleep was a natural and expected part of the night and, depending on your needs, was spent praying, reading, contemplating your dreams, urinating, or having sex.

The historian A. Rodger Ekrich found reference to “first” and “second” sleeps in historical documents going back to the middle ages.

Following further links (referring to Ekrich’s book, At Day’s Close: Nights in Times Past, and Kenneth K. Randall’s  Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep), I learned that this phenomenon was so ingrained in the population that in the 17th- and 18th centuries, you might even dress up after first sleep and visit your neighbors in the middle of the night, as it was pretty likely they too, would be awake again and expecting company.

If you happened to be a courtier, there might be scheduled events in the palace between sleeps. This habit, however, was one for the wealthy — you’d need to be able to afford to burn all the candles necessary for such nighttime conviviality. (Sex was undoubtedly a cheaper option)

I keep some over-the-counter sleep aids in my nightstand, out of my old fear of sleeplessness. Now, on the nights I go to bed at, say, before 9, wake up sometime between 11pm and 1am, read for a bit, and go back to sleep until six, I no longer think it’s odd or worrisome.

Part of my sleep hygiene is few lights as possible and NO electronics in the bedroom, apart from the e-paper Kindle. I thought I was doing this to minimize EMFs. (My brain needs all the help it can get to behave normally).

Turns out, I’m just a retro-sleeper. I’m just respecting my body’s natural reaction to the night.

Plus, it’s nice to get in another chapter of that great book I’m reading. Forget the clock and those almighty 8s–work and sleep–they are the latest version of “normal”numbers imposed upon people during the industrial age.

You sleep however you like and work as you must. Doing the first as your body requires and likes might make the latter more productive and enjoyable.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s