We talk a lot about how technology is changing the economy, entertainment and how we communicate with one another and the world, but we rarely talk about how it impacts sleep – and how we sleep may be the most fundamental change it has forced us to make.Way back in the day, before electricity, humans were governed more directly by the sun, and it wasn’t really that long ago when the lights came on for the masses.Imagine sleep before alarm clocks.
Actually, the problem isn’t so much alarm clocks
getting us up as it is everything else keeping
us up. Mobile phones, TV, computers, video games, bosses with round-the-clock access and even the innocent light bulb: These are the things that are keeping us awake long past the time when we should think about winding down.Imagine how – and when – you would sleep without all these distractions. You’d sleep when it got dark, because a) it’d be the safest thing you could do and b) it’d really be the only
thing you could do without light.So, it should be no surprise that it’s what our long-lost ancestors used to do.Humans slept differently prior to electricity.
It doesn’t take a lot of digging through the history books to discover that artificial light really jacked up our natural sleep patterns. Numerous articles
cite research – nay, actual documented evidence – that people used to sleep for shorter periods of time, multiple times a night.One common pattern was to sleep for a few hours, wake up for a couple hours, then go back down for another few hours. The supposed benefits of this are far-ranging: more REM sleep, more productive waking hours and less time wasted tossing and turning.So, what does this have to do with getting better sleep?
Generally, the idea is that we all have natural sleep patterns and the trick is to just let them happen. We’ve geared ourselves to believe that naps are bad (scientifically indefensible!) and if we sleep every time we’re tired we’ll never get anything done; or, we believe that sleep has to occur at a certain time.And, sometimes that’s true. Sleeping at work is usually frowned upon and sometimes we’re just really busy. But, “sleep management” is real, and it’s not just about having a comfy bed
– it’s about knowing when to get in it and relax.