Biphasic Sleep History

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Rahul Shivkumar
Jan 9, 20234 min read
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Biphasic Sleep History

Biphasic sleep, or the practice of sleeping in two distinct periods over the course of 24 hours, has a long and fascinating history dating back to ancient civilizations. While the modern world has largely adopted a monophasic sleep schedule, with a single block of sleep at night, biphasic sleep was the norm for much of human history.

The ancient Egyptians are often credited with being the first civilization to adopt a biphasic sleep pattern, with evidence dating back to at least 2000 BCE. The Egyptians would sleep for four to six hours at night, then wake up for a period of rest or leisure activities before returning to sleep for another four to six hours. This pattern was described by the Roman historian Plutarch, who wrote that the Egyptians "interpose a set of leisure hours between the two periods of sleep."

Biphasic sleep was also common in ancient Greece, where it was known as "first sleep" and "second sleep." The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote about biphasic sleep in his work "History of Animals," stating that it was a natural and healthy way to sleep. The Greeks would typically sleep for three to four hours, then wake up for a period of time before returning to sleep for another three to four hours.

During the Middle Ages, biphasic sleep became less common in Europe as the monastic practice of rising early for morning prayers became more widespread. However, it was still practiced by the general population in rural areas and among the working class. In fact, the word "siesta," which refers to a midday nap, comes from the Latin "hora sexta," or "sixth hour," as it was traditionally taken around noon, six hours after waking.

In the early modern period, biphasic sleep began to fall out of favor as the Industrial Revolution led to a shift towards a more standardized sleep schedule. The rise of factories and the need for a consistent workforce led to the adoption of a monophasic sleep pattern, with a single block of sleep at night. This shift was also influenced by the growing belief that biphasic sleep was a sign of laziness and a lack of discipline.

Despite the widespread adoption of monophasic sleep, biphasic sleep has experienced a resurgence in recent years as research has shown that it can have numerous health benefits. Studies have found that biphasic sleep can improve mood, increase productivity, and even reduce the risk of certain health conditions.

One of the main benefits of biphasic sleep is that it allows for a longer period of wakefulness during the day, which can increase productivity and creativity. This is because the brain is better able to function during the daytime when it is exposed to natural light, as this helps to regulate the body's internal clock.

Biphasic sleep can also improve mood by allowing for a longer period of rest and relaxation during the day, which can reduce stress and increase feelings of well-being. Additionally, taking a midday nap can help to recharge the brain and improve cognitive function, making it easier to concentrate and complete tasks.

In terms of physical health, biphasic sleep has been linked to a number of benefits. For example, research has shown that taking a midday nap can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and even boost the immune system. Additionally, biphasic sleep has been found to improve athletic performance and reduce the risk of accidents, as it allows for a longer period of rest and recovery.

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Rahul Shivkumar

Software Engineer & Sleep Enthusiast

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