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Society of Women Engineers

Spring Forward: Not Sleeping Through the Night May Be Natural

Before industrial times, and the invention of electricity and light bulbs, people often slept in two segments. It’s called segmented sleep.

Published On: March 2017

sleep

It’s time to “spring forward” and lose an hour of sleep. At 2:00 am Sunday, March 12, 2017, our clocks in the United States will move forward an hour to 3:00 am as we transition to Daylight Saving Time. The time will change back on Sunday, November 5 at 2:00 am. That’s when clocks “fall back” to 1:00 am Standard Time and we gain an hour of sleep.

This one-hour time disruption can negatively affect our sleep pattern for days or weeks, but waking up in the middle of the night may be completely natural. The 8-hour sleep cycle is a relatively new idea. It came about after the invention of electricity and light bulbs. Before industrial times, people often slept in two segments.

According to Roger Ekirch, a professor of history at Virginia Tech and author of At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past, pre-industrial people often slept in two shifts, which they referred to as “first sleep” and “second sleep.” They would go to bed a few hours after sunset, wake up for one or two hours around midnight, and then go back to sleep until dawn.

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