Waking up in the middle of the night is NORMAL – our bodies are hardwired to do it, sleep expert reveals

EVER wondered why you wake up in the middle of the night and struggle to get back to sleep?

You may be wired to operate that way.

Though being unable to sleep is today seen as insomnia, until the end of the 19th century people would wake up in the middle of the night on purpose.

Many people would use that time to do chores like the washing, converse with loved ones or have sex.

In fact, many people in Britain believed there were health benefits of a 'first sleep' and a 'second sleep', reports the Daily Mail.

Sleeping through the night is merely a modern invention, according to sleep historian Professor Roger Ekirch of Virginia Polytechnic and State University.

He told the Royal Society of Medicine yesterday: "Most individuals awakened shortly past midnight to an hour or so of consciousness, in which they meditated, they conversed and made love – not necessarily in that order.

"A 16th century physician said making love was better after the first sleep, when people have more enjoyment and do it better."

Waking up in the middle of the night was thought to be responsible for large families and better digestion.

He explained that the practice fell out of favour towards the end of the 19th century because people began to work longer hours and couldn't keep up with the demand to do chores in the middle of the night.

Those who started sleeping through the night would rise earlier compared to those who were in the 'second sleep', allowing them to "steal the march on the day", Professor Ekirch said.

In 2001 Professor Ekirch published a paper based on 16 years research revealing that humans used to sleep in two distinct shifts.

“Most individuals awakened shortly past midnight to an hour or so of consciousness, in which they meditated, they conversed and made love – not necessarily in that order

Then, four years later his book At Day's Close: Night in Times Past, contained more than 500 references to segmented sleeping patterns from diaries, medical books, court records and literature.

Sleep became and important, scheduled part of the Victorians lives, with many going to bed just after dusk to wake a few hours later, sometimes as late as 3am.

Professor Ekirch wrote in Sleep We Have Lost: Pre-Industrial Slumber in the British Isles: "Had pre-industrial families infact, retreated to their beds soon after sunset, able to rest for as much as twelve hours rather than just seven or eight, sleep might have seemed less important.

"Families went to great lengths to ensure the tranquillity of their slumber.

"Of particular importance were a household's beds, typically the most expensive articles of family furniture.

"Between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, English beds evolved from straw pallets on bare floors to wooden frames complete with pillows, sheets, blankets, coverlets, and "flock mattresses," which were typically filled with rags and stray pieces of wool."

But these days we are more aware of the health risks a lack of sleep poses.

Researchers have linked insomnia to people tripling their risk of asthma.

Sleep deprivation can also increase the risk of chronic health problems like blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

Not to mention the struggle to get up in the morning and focus on day-to-day tasks.

Nowadays, people are more likely to wake up in the night thanks to electronic devices and artificial light making their way into the bedroom.



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Scientists suggest that people struggling to sleep should go on a camping trip as spending time outside with no TV and phone screen resets your internal body clock.

Just a weekend under canvas in summer, or a week in winter, can bring it forward by 2½ hours, leaving people drowsier earlier in the evening.

Researchers put it down to the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep.

Thankfully, there is plenty of research out there to help people get a good nights sleep.

Experts recommend people get into a routine, lower the temperature to avoid sweating during the night, put socks on, make sure no light can get in and try to leave stress and worry behind you.

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