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Our profoundly artificial sleep patterns

Our ancestors, it seems, did not sleep as we do, we who live by clock time. Their night was divided into a first sleep and a second sleep; in the early hours they woke. Some meditated, some prayed, some read by candlelight (though candles, even when made of mutton fat, were a luxury: the poor relied on rushlights), some talked, some made love. Everyone knew the difference between first sleep and second sleep, and no one expected to sleep right through. Our own sleep patterns are profoundly artificial and unnatural, which may be why so many of us need sleeping pills to get what we think of as a good night’s sleep.

What happens in the night is that we are alone with our thoughts, out of which we conjure our own private hells and personal demons. Our brains are ceaselessly wheeling and rolling, and we are never so deceived as by ourselves. Even in our sleep they are at work: dreams, Nashe argues, are not portents but reworkings of our undigested experiences

Imagined danger and threats and noises in the night pullulate everywhere. 

To disempower such dead of night nonsense  for these imagined threats to lose their demonic character 
we must resort to  aspects of  chemistry and biology which neuters such medieval thinking.

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