As I have sufferred from Sleep Maintnenance Insommnia for years, I was absolutley amazing by the concepts discussed in the linked article. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16964783
In 2001, historian Roger Ekirch of Virginia Tech published a seminal paper, drawn from 16 years of research, revealing a wealth of historical evidence that humans used to sleep in two distinct chunks. Modern research has backed his findings in an interesting study where, when exposed to a fourteen hour darkness, subjects developed a distinct pattern of a four hour sleep, then wakefullness, then another four hour sleep. Erkirch describes a "First Sleep" followed by a period of one or two hours awake, and then a "Second Sleep" until morning.
This concept has interesting cognitive implications. I frequently wake up around two in the morning. This generally fills me with anxiety and I toss and turn in dread, fearing lack of energy the next day, which leads me to lose more sleep. After reading this amazing article, I still woke up last night, but just looked forward to reading and peacefully fell back asleep in an hour and woke rested....well I did get woken up at four to sleep with a kid but I still felt rested. I am so excited by this idea....it makes me wonder what other "common wisdom" we have lost over the years that could help explain major health issues in our society. I know there is missing wisdom regarding food preparation and enjoyment, posture maintenance, daily exercise and more. If anyone knows of a book I would love to read it.
The concept of the "first" and "second" sleep has important clinical implications as well. Read this link which characterizes sleep medications as akin to cigarettes in terms of health risk. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-17177005 They attribute the dangerous effects to hypnotic sleep medications, which includes everything from Ambien to over the counter sleeping pills and antihystamines. Lets all try together to cut out the pills and embrace the night.