Iowa Sleep Blog

1916 to 2016: How sleep habits have changed over time

Monday, January 18, 2016

Many things have changed as time has progressed – technology, fashion and lifestyles. But one thing that has stuck around is sleep. No matter what else changes, our bodies need sleep to keep us functioning at our highest level. While we sleep, our bodies repair themselves, preserve memories and clean out the brain for the next day. Although the need for quality sleep each night has not changed, the perceptions and patterns of our sleep each night have. Below, we looked at a couple things that have changed in how people sleep over time:

  • Double the pattern – Dating as far back as 800 B.C., it was commonplace to experience two alternating patterns of wakefulness and sleep in 24 hours. It was not unusual for people to pray, brew ale, or visit with friends in the middle of the night.
  • Beds are common place – In France during the rule of King Louie XIV, he was known to hold court from the comfort of his bed. This wasn’t a hard feat for the Sun King, as he had more than 413 beds throughout his palaces.
  • Streets are alight – Before gas lighting was utilized in London in 1807, a handful of cities required homeowners and business owners to light the exterior of their buildings and storefronts. By installing gas lights on the streets, it made the streets safer and enabled people to be active and productive, even after the sun went down.
  • Creation of the light bulb – While gas lighting was important for cities, the creation of the light bulb in 1879 was a big step forward for homes. Before, chores and activities were constricted to daylight hours or to be done by soft candle light. Some researchers suggest Americans sleep at least three hours less than the average American did before Edison’s discovery.
  • Lazy and wasteful – During the Industrial Age, a time of many advancements in technology, industry and manufacturing, sleeping an “excess” of more than seven or eight hours a night was seen as extravagant. Factories wanted to maximize their output by keeping their factories running as many hours as possible, meaning many workers regularly pulled 10 hour shifts or longer. An eight hour work day was not standardized until 1937.

While the priority and importance placed on sleep has changed over time, what hasn’t changed is how important it is to get the recommended amount of sleep to operate at our highest level. If you feel like you’re not operating at that level each day, there could an underlining reason. The doctors at Iowa Sleep can talk with you about your sleep and lifestyle habits to get you sleeping well each night. Contact us at 855-346-889 to set up an appointment at our West Des Moines or Ankeny locations, or send us a questions through our online form.


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