sleep in Ayurveda, etc.

Allen W Thrasher athr at LOC.GOV
Tue Apr 22 20:33:46 UTC 2008

I recently read an fascinating work on night and sleep in Europe prior to the last century or two:
Ekirch, A. Roger, 1950- 
At day's close : night in times past
New York : Norton, c2005.
See t.c. at < >.

Among a lot of other interesting points, it showed that people did not used to expect that they would sleep more or less continuously through the night.  Rather they talked of "first and second sleep."  After waking they would do various things like make love, do chores, check on the house and the livestock, or pray (books of devotions gave prayers specifically for this time).  Then they would go back to sleep.  Interestingly, diarists from the elites, such as Pepys and Boswell, never mention this; it appears they went to bed considerably later and slept continuously.  

Is there any mention of this in Indian sources?

I might add that the phenomenon of two sleeps may be connected with the monastic custom of rising in the night or very early morning for prayers, and then retiring to sleep again, and then still having a quite early rising.  Some references to night prayers in the Psalms may indicate this was done in ancient Israel, and perhaps by individuals in the personal devotions as well in the official liturgy of the Temple.  I don't have time to search out chapter and verse.

The books is a history of night and not of sleep as such, but I was disappointed it didn't discuss napping in the daytime.  Another topic I would have liked to see addressed is whether people slept longer, or at least spent more time in bed, during the dark cold months than in the other parts of the year.

The data is mostly from Northern Europe, so it does not discuss late hours and a long siesta in Southern Europe.


Allen W. Thrasher, Ph.D., Senior Reference Librarian
South Asia Team, Asian Division
Library of Congress, Jefferson Building 150
101 Independence Ave., S.E.
Washington, DC 20540-4810
tel. 202-707-3732; fax 202-707-1724; athr at
The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Library of Congress.

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