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The Sociology of Disorders: Why We Can’t Sleep

Before artificial light was bent to our will, most people would retire shortly after dusk, sleep for four or five hours, awaken for an hour or two, then drift back to sleep again until sunrise.

Doesn’t that sound nice?

“Our sleep patterns have only shifted to the current 8-hour consolidated pattern in the decades since electric light became readily available,” notes Ross Pomeroy in today’s lesson. In other words, technology is the sleep disrupter. Or rather, technology is the sleep enabler, since our natural state was full of sleep disruptions. 

Early humans didn’t sleep the same way we do. Pre-industrial couples would wake up in the middle of the night and have sex. But not only that. As Pomeroy reports, they also “did chores, took care of infants, wrote, read, ate, and quietly contemplated life.”

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