Over the last week I have posted prayers to welcome God into our day and into our night. I mentioned that one of these prayers was written as a response to my struggle the night before with insomnia. I was amazed at the number of people who responded with their own stories of sleeplessness and the frustration it caused them.
I have written about sleeplessness before but thought it was time to do a little more research on the subject. What I discovered is fascinating.
According to this article by Natalie Wolchover
More than one-third of American adults wake up in the middle of the night on a regular basis. Of those who experience “nocturnal awakenings,” nearly half are unable to fall back asleep right away. Doctors frequently diagnose this condition as a sleep disorder called “middle-of-the-night insomnia,” and prescribe medication to treat it.
Mounting evidence suggests, however, that nocturnal awakenings aren’t abnormal at all; they are the natural rhythm that your body gravitates toward. According to historians and psychiatrists alike, it is the compressed, continuous eight-hour sleep routine to which everyone aspires today that is unprecedented in human history. We’ve been sleeping all wrong lately — so if you have “insomnia,” you may actually be doing things right.
Normal isn’t really normal at all. According to Natalie and a growing number of researchers, until the invention of the electric light most people slept in four hour blocks, waking in the middle of the night for an hour or two in which they prayed, conversed together, made love or went for walks. Electric light meant we could stay up later. Instead of going to bed for 12-14 hours we suddenly only spent 8 hours or less in bed and expect to get all our sleep done in one go.
Evidently sleeping in the biphasic pattern helps us process our dreams which are part of the problem solving mechanism of our brains. It is no wonder that many people find that their night time wakefulness often ignites creative juices and helps them solve life’s challenges. It also explains why the monastic rhythms began with prayer at 2 or 3 am. This was not some rigourous, aesthetic discipline but rather flowed out of the natural rhythm of sleep and wakefulness. And think about how often in the Bible God awakens prophets and leaders with visions and dreams.
What I wonder are we missing out on because we try to control our sleep patterns? (More to come on this)
What do you think?