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It’s 3 a.m. and there is a sliver of a moon outside. It is so quiet. I’ve taken to enjoying moments like this since I read an article titled “The Myth of the Eight Hour Sleep.” Research indicates that a period of wakefulness between two sleep cycles may be natural, and literature from various periods in history backs this up.
When I first learned about segmented sleep, I immediately thought of two things:
First, I thought of Mom complaining about Dad. “I roll over in the middle of the night,” she laments, “and there he is with his iPhone – ” at this point she dramatizes this by scrunching her brow, placing her palm close to her face and squinting – “staring at the little glowing screen.” Then Dad shrugs apologetically and decides whether the mood is right for a retort about Mom’s snoring.
Second, I thought of an antiphon from the Liturgy of the Hours that accompanies Psalm 134: “In the silent hours of the night, bless the Lord.” Segmented sleep enfleshes this antiphon, and contextualizes the longstanding tradition of early morning monastic prayer. (I spent a summer at a Benedictine abbey where nuns gathered for optional Matins at 2 a.m. The nuns poked fun at Mother Stephen, who would valiantly attend and inevitably slip into slumber in her stall.)
Now, when I awake without prompting in the middle of the night, I don’t fret about going back to sleep right away. I say the antiphon. I relish the stillness.
Lake Cayuga, 2012