David T. Koyzis points to historical research that shows that people used to sleep differently than we do today. Instead of sleeping for an 8-hour-or-so block of time, people would sleep three or four hours, wake up for two or three hours, and then sleep again until morning. It would all take about 12 hours–go to bed when it got dark (say at 8:00 p.m.); wake up at midnight until 2:00 or 3:00 a.m.; then enjoy what they called “second sleep” until 8:00 a.m.
This was the practice in the West from ancient times until the 17th century with the advent of street lights and then the industrial revolution, though it lingered on some places until the 20th century. (And today in some people’s patterns of insomnia.)
Prof. Koyzis shows how this fact explains certain passages in Scripture. Also the monastic prayer offices in the middle of the night. Also, I would add, the various watches of the night, in which sailors, soldiers, and others out in the elements exposed to danger took three-hour shifts standing guard through the night. Details after the jump. [Read more…]