Guide At Days Close: Night in Times Past

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Ekirch notes when modern society began emerging, bi-phasic sleeping started decreasing in its prevalence. Curious, he performed a sleep experiment to determine if it was a natural, human inclination.

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The results suggested that bi-phasic sleeping was biologically based and a natural tendency for humans. With this, the afternoon nap could be considered an attempt to reclaim to a lesser degree, bi-phasic sleeping. In some cultures, napping is integrated into the cycle of the day, usually following lunch. Businesses close down for two hours to accommodate the meal and napping tradition. Since it does not look like our culture will be accommodating nap time anytime soon, there is nothing to say you cannot create your own napping tradition. The NSF does indicate a minute nap earlier in the afternoon can increase short-term alertness.

AT DAY'S CLOSE by A. Roger Ekirch | Kirkus Reviews

However, taking a nap later in the day can interfere with your evening sleep. How can you find nap time if you need it?

Time lapse: the difference between summer and winter in Finland

Consider napping in your car after eating lunch during moderate weather, close an office door, or find a quiet space where you will not be disturbed, or if you live close by, flex your schedule where you can go home to eat and nap. The NSF reports three U. What Ekirch set out to do in this book was to look at the myriad aspects of life after dark for the people in preindustrial Europe and North America generally through And he succeeds wonderfully in examining hundreds of ways in which life after dark was different than life in the daylight — and, by implication, the ways in which life at night in the preindustrial world was different than life at night in the present-day.

For instance, did you ever wonder what it must have been like to fall ill in a world before electricity and other artificial illumination?

At Days Close by A Roger Ekirch

Ekirch did, and he reports:. Not only was sickness common, but darkness contributed its share of injuries. Families possessed a passing knowledge of remedies and cures, combined with a small inventory of potions, plasters, and possets, some acquired from the local cunning men [folk healers]…Tormented one evening by a throbbing earache, [Parson Woodforde] placed a roasted onion in his ear. This is how he handles almost every subject — in the space of a single paragraph. For achieving his goals, this is a useful approach for Ekirch.

As a result, the book is a treasure trove for historians and fiction writers who want to get a sense of, say, how people read in bed dangerously, by candlelight or dealt with thieves in the dark with difficulty. Then what?


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  • Consider the paragraph quoted above. The parson with the earache puts a roasted onion in his ear — and then what? Did it work?