David K. Randall is a senior reporter at Reuters and has also written for the New York Times, Forbes, and New York. He is an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
And he had written a book.
Mr. Randall, obviously, is no scientist toiling in the field of sleep research. He is a sleepwalker. Not the kind of somnambulist gliding through the night, effortlessly avoiding dangerous spots, but the kind walking into the walls and seriously injuring himself. Thus his interest in the phenomenon of sleep.
Given that the research in the field is still ongoing, and the range of research topics is huge, the answers may not be definitive. Still, the author touches upon a great number of sleep related subjects, giving a brisk but impressive tour.
The prevailing public perception is that we must sleep for eight consecutive hours. However, recent research indicates that before the advent of the light bulb, sleep was divided into two blocks. The “first sleep” lasted from sundown until after midnight; an hour or so later, people would have a “second sleep” that lasted until morning.
“The time between the two bouts of sleep was a natural and expected part of the night and, depending on your needs, was spent praying, reading, contemplating your dreams, urinating, or having sex,” Randall writes. “The last one was perhaps the most popular.”
A “first sleep”, which began about two hours after dusk, followed by waking period of one or two hours and then a “second sleep”. Anthropologists studying cultures without artificial light and psychologists depriving subjects of electricity have suggested that our bodies will revert to this segmented sleep pattern if given the chance.
Most people stayed in bed, read, wrote and often prayed. Countless prayer manuals from the late 15th Century offered special prayers for the hours in between sleeps. They often chatted to bed-fellows or had sex. A doctor’s manual from 16th Century France even advised couples that the best time to conceive was not at the end of a long day’s labor but “after the first sleep”, when “they have more enjoyment” and “do it better”.
Another chapter deals with the study of dreams, divided between Freudians, who see them as coded projections of the dreamer’s desires, and a more recent studies, explaining dreams as straightforward reflections of the dreamer’s anxieties.
A major scientific accomplishment of Friedrich August Kekulé, a German chemist, was spearheaded by a dream. Two dreams, actually, that he had at key moments of his research. In his first dream, in 1865, he saw atoms dance around and link to one another. He awakened and immediately began to sketch what he saw in his dream.
In another dream, he saw atoms dance around, then form themselves into strings, moving about in a snake-like fashion. This vision continued until the snake of atoms formed itself into an image of a snake eating its own tail. This dream gave Kekulé the idea of the cyclic structure of benzene.
Several experiments, having to do with “creative sleep”, are described in considerable detail. All of them show that the mind is cleared of unnecessary information and acquires new abilities during all stages of sleep. The longer and better you rest, the greater the benefits.
Google, Nike, Procter & Gamble, Cisco Systems and other corporations took notice: the bottom line and profitability might improve should employees stay alert and well rested. Breaks for naps in designated areas became a staple of an advanced contemporary workplace.
Consulting companies, such as Alertness Solutions, with its logo: Translating the science of fatigue into effective solutions, are offering creative approach to improvement of safety, creativity and performance.
However, if you are not so lucky as to work for a super-advanced nap-encouraging company, then Sleep Safe Tape is for you… if you want to be creative, inventive and far better than your own underslept self.
Disclaimer: David K. Randall in his book have no mentioning of Sleep Safe Tape. It is unknown if he is aware of the existence of such product.