Why did people go to bed twice a night in the Middle Ages

Why did people go to bed twice a night in the Middle Ages

Categories: Health and Medicine | History

A good sound sleep is the key to health. That's what we've all been taught since childhood. Of course, in order to get enough sleep, certain conditions are needed. If they are not there, then the dream will be so-so. And, of course, interrupted sleep is not considered high-quality by science. But this is in our time, but how was it before? In the Middle Ages, it was the norm to sleep at night in two steps. Why did this happen and how did it affect people's well-being?

Why did people go to bed twice a night in the Middle Ages

In medieval Europe, they slept quite differently than in modern Europe. Firstly, the houses of that era were not distinguished by comfort and security. Because of this, many wealthy people slept in special chests of drawers that were locked from the inside. This was not the worst option, since the peasants could generally sleep with the whole family on the same bed or even side by side on the floor.

Why did people go to bed twice a night in the Middle Ages

When the guests arrived, they had to pack almost in stacks at all. At the same time, do not forget that in some regions it was customary to keep cattle in the house as well. Add here the cold in winter, the heat in summer and ruthless parasites all year round. We are already silent about the smells from unwashed bodies and other things. In general, a modern person, even the most unpretentious, had no chance to get enough sleep at that time.

At the same time in The Middle Ages practiced two-phase (polyphase) sleep. People went to bed, then got up in the middle of the night for a while and then fell asleep again, already until morning. This feature has nothing to do with the uncomfortable circumstances described above. The people then were unpretentious and hardened. The unusual regime was associated with the rhythm of life at that time.

In the old days, when there was no electric lighting, and you had to entertain yourself yourself, you went to bed very early. Usually in the villages life stopped with the onset of darkness, and in the cities a little later. In winter, going to bed could take place even at 7-8 pm. Therefore, there was nothing surprising in the fact that a person woke up at midnight.

Why did people go to bed twice a night in the Middle Ages

Waking up in the middle of the night, a resident of a medieval village or city did not lie, as is customary now, looking at the ceiling or smartphone. He started doing various things. These one and a half or two hours in the middle of the night could be spent on different things. Someone made love, someone got up to have a snack and a drink, and there were those who managed to do some housework.

The monks spent this time with great benefit. They prayed, read spiritual literature, or held theological debates. It can be said that this brief wakefulness in the middle of the night was a kind of social meditation. It seems that this is wrong, tedious and generally not good. But don't rush to conclusions. If such a sleep schedule was tiring, it would not have been practiced for many centuries.

Professor of History from Roger Ekirch of the University of Virginia in the USA decided to study the issue seriously. He lived for some time in the style of a medieval man, waking up in the middle of the night. To the surprise of the scientist, this mode turned out to be very productive. According to him, a person who wakes up in the middle of the night is in a peaceful state. His mind is immersed in peace and harmony, so he is visited by good and even brilliant thoughts.

Why did people go to bed twice a night in the Middle Ages

There is nothing surprising in the fact that midnight wakefulness was highly appreciated by the monks. Roger Ekirch, who studied this phenomenon, shared his thoughts in a scientific publication. The professor said that there were no strict rules of night wakefulness.

It follows that two-phase sleep was not a custom or a strict rule. Everyone acted as it was more convenient for him. But it just so happened that the most comfortable was the night rest, divided into two parts. Roger Ekirch did not stop there. The scientist began to study the regime of residents of the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Africa, Australia and Oceania.

Why did people go to bed twice a night in the Middle Ages

Suddenly it turned out that two-phase sleep is still practiced in different parts of the world, and centuries ago it was widespread everywhere. Plunging into history even deeper, Ekirch was surprised to find references to two-phase sleep in Homer's Odyssey. This means that this custom appeared in ancient times.

The scientist devoted 16 years of his life to the study of polyphase sleep. The result was a serious scientific book At Day's Close: Night in Times Past ("The End of the Day: Night time in the past"). Ekirkh claims that the tradition of sleeping twice a night gradually began to become obsolete in the 17th century. But to get rid of it completely, the Europeans had to spend many centuries.

The professor writes that they completely abandoned two-phase sleep in the Old World only in the 1920s! This was primarily due to the widespread use of electricity. It was just that there was no longer a need to go to bed early and the fragmentation of a night's rest disappeared.

Why did people go to bed twice a night in the Middle Ages

Another factor that influenced the rhythm of people's lives is the appearance of round-the-clock establishments. Citizens who had access to coffee shops, cinemas, cabarets and pubs went to bed late enough and did not wake up at night. But the researcher claims that we have not been able to completely abandon polyphasicity.

Traditional in many cultures, an afternoon rest or siesta is nothing but the echoes of a dream divided into two parts. But in the animal world, polyphasic sleep has always been the norm. Surely you have noticed that cats and dogs go to bed several times a day. In their world, everything is explained more simply — prolonged sleep is always accompanied by the risk of becoming someone's victim. Sleeping in small portions is much safer.

Echoes of this phenomenon are also present in humans. Surely you sometimes wake up briefly in the middle of the night for no reason. Most of the time we just roll over and fall asleep again. Millennia ago, when our ancestors lived in caves and in trees, such a pause in a dream served to check the environment for threats.

Why did people go to bed twice a night in the Middle Ages

Polyphasic sleep is hardly relevant today. But it can be useful to those who suffer... from insomnia. Professor of psychiatry Walter Brown (Walter Browne) believes that information about this method of sleep helps his patients. It turns out that many suffer not only from insomnia itself, but also from the thought that something is wrong with them. By telling the patient about the medieval practice of sleep and its historical significance, you can take a serious step towards healing.

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