Too many of us can’t get a good night’s sleep. Sleep apnea, night waking and insomnia are just a few of the reasons we toss and turn and wake up tired. About a third of the population has a prolonged period of wakefulness in the middle of the night, during which we might stare at the ceiling (or worse, our phone) and worry over all the things morning will bring. That, in turn, does not make it any easier to fall back asleep. So don’t even try. Instead, scientists say, we should get up and enjoy a little intermission — like our ancestors did.
Not that long ago, the human sleep cycle included a “first sleep,” a brief period of wakefulness, and then a “second sleep.” In the days before electricity, bedtime might fall just a couple hours after darkness. This early-to-bed lifestyle fostered a period of refreshed wakefulness, an hour or so which people used to read, complete tasks, or pursue amorous pursuits. Then, after going back to sleep for the rest of the night, the person would begin the day refreshed.