Feb 22, 2012 7:37 PM GMT
Bottomline: "So the next time you wake up in the middle of the night, think of your pre-industrial ancestors and relax. Lying awake could be good for you."
"Many people wake up at night and panic," he says. "I tell them that what they are experiencing is a throwback to the bi-modal sleep pattern."
But the majority of doctors still fail to acknowledge that a consolidated eight-hour sleep may be unnatural.
"Over 30% of the medical problems that doctors are faced with stem directly or indirectly from sleep. But sleep has been ignored in medical training and there are very few centres where sleep is studied," he says.
Jacobs suggests that the waking period between sleeps, when people were forced into periods of rest and relaxation, could have played an important part in the human capacity to regulate stress naturally.
In many historic accounts, Ekirch found that people used the time to meditate on their dreams.
"Today we spend less time doing those things," says Dr Jacobs. "It's not a coincidence that, in modern life, the number of people who report anxiety, stress, depression, alcoholism and drug abuse has gone up."
So the next time you wake up in the middle of the night, think of your pre-industrial ancestors and relax. Lying awake could be good for you.