Siesta fans, when was the “bi” in bi-phasic?
Current economic issues are affecting the lifestyles of some people:
Soaring unemployment, rising taxes and belt-tightening family budgets across Spain could finally spell the end of the traditional Spanish lunch and siesta.
The two-to-three-hour midday breaks with time built in for a snooze during the hottest part of the day were once the Spanish worker’s universal way to beat the afternoon heat. But it is becoming a luxury for cash-strapped employees who are working longer hours and having to make do with less in the country’s steepest downturn since the 1930s.
Reuters points out that the actual siesta is no longer practiced in urban areas, but that people still like to take long lunches.
Since I was curious about the history of the siesta, I went to a Siesta Awareness page, which said the following:
Research shows that the majority of people suffer from tiredness twice in every 24 hour period. We are what’s called Bi-phasic; we need two periods of sleep; a long one at night and a shorter one during the day. The early afternoon brings a drop in energy levels, not as severe as night time, but sufficient to make it difficult to concentrate and think clearly. By having a short nap we can help ourselves think more clearly by more productive and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Before artificial lighting “colonized” the darkness (to borrow a term from the historian Craig Koslofsky), a nightly wakeful interlude was expected. Lighting and caffeinated beverages promoted active, chatty evenings. This, historians believe, believe pushed back the Western world’s bedtime. The modern ideal of a continuous eight-hour slumber was born.
But prior to that, the idea of a “first” and “second” sleep was so routine, one researcher wrote, “it provoked little comment at the time.”
This was the insight of A. Roger Ekirch, a professor of history at Virginia Tech. In his 2005 book At Day’s Close, he argued that: “Until the close of the early modern era [roughly the year 1800], Western Europeans on most evenings experienced two major of sleep bridged by an hour or more of quiet wakefulness.” This period was known as the “watch” or “watching.”
So, depending upon whom you believe, we are inclined to sleep all night and take a break midday, or we sleep in two intervals and take a wakeful break in the middle of the night.
Or perhaps we do both. We take a midday rest, work the rest of the day, go home, sleep a while, wake up in the middle of the night and socialize, and then go back to sleep until morning.
But that would make us tri-phasic, I guess.