New Zealand's sleeping habits are unnatural and unhealthy. A panic-inducing horror show.
We've been doing it wrong for centuries. Luckily, during the lockdown, some Kiwis started to get it right. Engaging in historically correct biphasic sleeping patterns. Happily running two sleeps a night instead of one.
Giving up on the almost impossible 8-hour stretch. It's an idea you should get into bed with, then get out of bed with, then back into bed with again every night.
Kiwis weren't always one sleep battlers. Historian A. Roger Ekirch claims two sleeps a night was once the norm. In his book At Day's Close: Night in Times Past he found the practice mentioned in literature as late as the 1840s.
But biphasic is likely much older than that. Anthropologists believe we operated this way for most of our existence. That humans in the wild naturally go nigh nigh at dusk and wake up around midnight. Hang around for a bit and go back to sleep a few hours after that.
Under the right circumstances, we will tend toward shift sleeps even today. Studies at the Yale School of Medicine by psychologist Dr Thomas Wehr have shown if you remove artificial light and schedules from people's lives they will naturally revert to two sleeps.
It's a sleep when you are sleepy approach to life. Forget about your 8 hours.
Go to bed at your first yawn even if it's 7.30pm. You'll wake up again 11:30 or 12. Great. You have a window to do good things. Talk to your significant other in the dark, contemplate your dreams, read a book, get some work done - while you're fresh.
When you get sleepy again go back to sleep. It's what God intended.
For most of us, 8 hours sleep is a fallacy. Whatever our intention we wake in the middle of the night anyway. Why not embrace it? It's not like you can force yourself back to sleep. You can't lie down and strain your brain until it shuts down. We don't have an off switch. We are not C3PO - "Sir if you'll not be needing me I'll close down for a while."
But if we accept that we will wake up in the night. We can enjoy it. Celebrate the midnight hours.
Lockdown was a bad time for many. A silver lining was the new sleeping patterns available. I was one of those who achieved sleep at a high level. Breaking the 8 hour shackles.
Surpassing even the natural biphasic and arriving at an impressive quadphasic pattern. I was sleeping at efficient, attractive, even heroic levels.
As an essential worker, I started at 5am, finished at 10am. Got home, had a sleep - so I didn't have to help with the kids' homeschooling. Got up at 12. Ate lunch. Had another two-hour sleep at 3pm - so I didn't have to help with the kids' exercise.
Hit the hay straight after dinner - so I didn't have to help with the dishes or choose what to watch on Netflix. Woke up at midnight and blasted out all my prep for the next day's work. You are more productive at this time of night. Then back to sleep again for an hour or so. Up for work fresh as a daisy at 5am again.
The key to biphasic sleeping is doing what your body tells you to. Don't fight it - feel it. Tired? Go to bed. If you wake up do something else until you are tired again. Go back to sleep when it feels right.
What option do you have? You're likely going to wake up anyway. If you're not planning for it you will likely panic. You'll worry deep into the night about being tired the next day. Worry about taxes. Your job.
Rip your psyche to pieces over the crippling debt this country is ticking up? Who's going to pay it all back? Sure, you will eventually get back to sleep. Just like the biphasics. The difference is the stress. Biphasics embrace the situation. They look forward to the midnight window. No stress.
Before light bulbs and the industrial revolution, everyone ran two sleeps a night. Humans are calibrated for it. Try it. Go to bed early. Sleep till around midnight.
Wake up for a bit then go back to sleep. You have earned a beautiful little oasis in the dark. A gift. A glorious window of opportunity. You are at your best at this time. So talk, walk, work or simply make sweet sweet love to the person awake beside you. Biphasic for the win!