More surprising still, Ekirch reports that for many centuries, and perhaps back to Homer, Western society slept in two shifts. People went to sleep, got up in the middle of the night for an hour or so, and then went to sleep again. Thus night -- divided into a "first sleep" and "second sleep" -- also included a curious intermission. "There was an extraordinary level of activity," Ekirch told me. People got up and tended to their animals or did housekeeping. Others had sex or just lay in bed thinking, smoking a pipe, or gossiping with bedfellows. [...]
Our conception of sleep as an unbroken block is so innate that it can seem inconceivable that people only two centuries ago should have experienced it so differently. Yet in an experiment at the National Institutes of Health a decade ago, men kept on a schedule of 10 hours of light and 14 hours of darkness -- mimicking the duration of day and night during winter -- fell into the same, segmented pattern. They began sleeping in two distinct, roughly four-hour stretches, with one to three hours of somnolence -- just calmly lying there -- in between. Some sleep disorders, namely waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to fall asleep again, "may simply be this traditional pattern, this normal pattern, reasserting itself," Ekirch told me. "It's the seamless sleep that we aspire to that's the anomaly, the creation of the modern world."
In fact, many contemporary, nonindustrialized cultures contentedly pass portions of the night in the same state of somnolence, says Carol Worthman, an anthropologist at Emory University who is one of the first to look at how other societies sleep. [...] Among the Efe in Zaire, and the !Kung in Botswana, for example, someone who wakes up in the middle of the night and cannot sleep "may begin to hum, or go out and play the thumb piano," Worthman and a colleague have written. Others might wake up and join in. "Music or even a dance may get going."
I walked out to the grocery store and drug store this afternoon, which may have been a mistake, but by the time I decided that my back really didn't feel right I was most of the way there so I decided to grit my teeth and push on -- anyhow, I was out of some stuff I didn't want to run out of...
So I was in two different canned-Christmas-music environments, one of which was in a Bing Crosby era mode (I'm glad I'm getting exposed in small doses, unlike the store employees, so I don't run so high a risk of coming to hate and dread what would otherwise be either pleasant or inoccuous music) and by the time I got home, the last song I'd heard in the drug store was mutating as it looped in my brain. (Go figure.)
Have yourself a mercenary Christmas,
Make the yuletide pay ...
Not as catchy as what Tom Lehrer did to Christmas carols, but given the context it seemed to fit.
I figured that, though tired, I should try to get more windows covered in plastic, so as to be a little more prepared when our current kindasortaalmostwarm snap ends. I've been using gaffer's tape, in the hope that it won't take the paint with it when I remove it from the windows I want to be able to open, come spring. (Though some rooms were painted poorly and/or with the wrong kind of paint, and the paint is all too happy to leave the wall regardless of whether the proper adhesive is used, other rooms will actually benefit from the right kind of tape. On walls where there's bare plaster or paint so old that it needs to be repainted anyhow, I just use clear packing tape.)
But I just ran out of gaffer's tape -- I didn't have as much as I thought I did. Gonna need to get out to Service Photo sooner rather than later, I guess. Unless Bill's Music sells gaffer's tape.
|← Previous day||(Calendar)||Next day →|