The Great Sleep Transformation
January 21, 2021
|Subtitle||How the Industrial Revolution Changed Our Nights|
|Publisher||Amsterdam (published in French)|
Contrary to popular belief, a block of sleep of about eight hours is not natural. This way of sleeping only spread very recently, in the wake of the industrial revolution, thanks to the generalization of artificial lighting in cities and the imposition of a new discipline of work. Previously, sleep was usually split into two moments, separated by a period of waking devoted to various activities such as meditation, intimate relationships or even caring for the animals.
This is the revolutionary thesis of Roger Ekirch. His fascinating investigation into the upheaval of our nights represented by the disappearance, then the forgetting of biphasic sleep, endowed this object with a historicity that had until then been denied to it and led to the emergence of a new field of research, Sleep Studies. Above all, this discovery invites us to question the identification of midnight insomnia as a “sleep disorder”. And to consider the consequences of a transformation which has barred us from privileged access to dreams and, therefore, to self-awareness.