Partial to a wee afternoon nap? Don’t let anyone accuse you of being lazy. It turns out, you’ve had it right all along.
It’s time to do it the Spanish way and bring some siesta into our lives. But for longer. Arriba!
In an article for The Conversation, Dr. Melinda Jackson, a psychologist who specialises in sleep disorders at RMIT University, and Siobhan Banks, sleep researcher at the University of South Australia, say our body clocks are much better suited to two shorter stretches of sleep each day. Segmented or bi-modal sleeping actually used to be the norm, and the recommended eight hours of sleep at night is a relatively modern invention.
It seems that we can learn a thing or two about sleeping from our ancestors. In pre-industrial Europe, bi-modal sleeping was normal, and even Charles Dickens was a fan. In his 1840 historical novel Barnaby Rudge, he wrote: “He knew this, even in the horror with which he started from his first sleep, and threw up the window to dispel it by the presence of some object, beyond the room, which had not been, as it were, the witness of his dream.”
So how does segmented sleeping work? Basically, rather than fit everything into your typical waking hours, factoring in a six- to eight-hour sleep during the night, you fit your shorter sleeps around what you have to do and when.
If you think about it, segmented sleeping makes sense. Aren’t two periods of activity and productivity per day better than one long period, during which we gradually grow tired and become less creative and productive as a result? We can all relate to that after-lunch slump. You know the feeling: you return to your desk after lunch and you want to curl up underneath it and have a snooze. Everything takes twice as long, it’s harder to concentrate and the irritability factor goes up a few notches.
For shift workers or parents of young children, bi-modal sleeping sounds like the perfect option. But also for the rest of us, for whom one sleep session per day just isn’t enough.