The Victorian sleep pattern – a prime example
of how habits have changed
In the 19th century before the light bulb and electrical power held sway in all households, people used to go to bed as soon as it became dark. They slept from 3:00 to 4:00 in the morning, got up, worked for one or two hours only to go back to sleep again for one or two hours.
Is it possible that the sleep rhythm of many of us still comes from that era, when we divided up our day according to the amount of natural light? After all, many people today wake up between 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning and have difficulty going back to sleep again.
Good sleep is very important to our wellbeing, even though scientists don’t seem very clear about what exactly happens during sleep. What is undoubtedly clear, however, is that our internal clock is closely linked to our sleep pattern. There is an internal clock ticking in every cell of our body. These clocks in turn get their bearings from the light, which means that every cell, every organ and every system within the body has a day-night rhythm.
We have problems sleeping when our inner clock is decoupled from our sleep. This induces a state of chaos in the body. The stress system can no longer create the balanced state we need in order to feel well, so the inflammation that is always within us becomes chronic and eventually leads to chronic illnesses. Poor sleep can therefore result in metabolic disorders like obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Depression is also associated with sleeping problems.
Statistics tell us that 25-30% of people
suffer from sleeping problems.
How can I develop a sleep rhythm that is good for me? How can I wake up in the morning feeling fresh and eager to start the day instead of dragging myself out of bed feeling completely shattered?
Perhaps the following suggestions will help you. Stop and reflect for a while, find a quiet place, take some deep, conscious breaths in and out. Go for a walk in the evening in the fresh air. Enjoy the white-gold light of the morning whenever you can. At home make sure your lightbulbs give off light from the red rather than the blue colour spectrum. Maybe you would enjoy listening to music that calms you down and lets you forget for a moment about time and space.
Being calm and free of anxiety is very effective when it comes to preventing any form of inflammation from becoming a chronic condition. Studies have shown that meditation, yoga and other breathing techniques have that effect. They soothe the stress system. Naturally much could be said and written on this subject. But it is much harder to put the ideas into practice. So, just do it and practise these techniques as often as you can.
I have found that, for me personally, communication is extremely exhausting.
Being silent and practising quiet concentration helps me.
I try and keep away from all devices that connect me to my environment like my mobile phone, computer or TV. I have been self-employed since 1992 and ever since 2000 I have been managing my own business with great passion and with all of my strength (see Biestmilch).
I practice relaxation and sleep techniques on a daily basis.
I avoid any sport or strenuous physical exercise in the evening. It tends to activate the body which only makes it harder to settle down and get ready for sleep.
I then often lie awake from 2:30 to 4:00 in the morning.
After concentrating on these lines of text
I now invite you to be active again yourself,
to check how your body feels and
perform another self-assessment.
DO I GET ENOUGH PEACE AND QUIET BEFORE GOING TO SLEEP
Checklist for my bed-time routine
I try not to do any strenuous work at night.
I try not to eat anything two to three hours before going to bed.
I no longer drink any caffeine at night.
I don’t play any sport at night to avoid over-stimulating myself.
I sometimes go for a relaxing evening stroll.
I no longer watch any provocative television programmes.
I create an atmosphere of peace and quiet around me.
I switch off my computer.
I turn off the TV.
I put my mobile phone aside in another room.
I shut down all social media.
I take a cold shower one hour before going to bed.
I darken the room.
I read a few lines before going to sleep.
I sometimes use earplugs when the noise around me is too distracting.
I lie in bed and try to meditate.
In my mind, I consciously tell myself there is no need for me to go back to sleep if I find myself experiencing another bout of broken sleep.