History of the Night Month: Light and the Night

Posted by Lauren Zimmerman on
At Sleep Geek, October  is “History of the Night Month.” In celebration of all-things post-dusk and pre-dawn, we’re exploring the way nighttime has changed over the years and how it affects sleep. So, here we go—let’s start with Light and the Night.

In the modern world, we have so much artificial light, that after a 1994 earthquake knocked out power, some Los Angeles residents were so concerned about a “giant, silvery cloud” in the sky above them, that they called the police to report it. It was the Milky Way. They had never seen it before. Although the night sky was new to many people in Los Angeles, there was a time (not so long ago) that artificial light didn’t exist. Then came along Thomas Edison.

With Thomas Edison’s invention of electric light, the history of the night was forever changed. Suddenly sunset no longer meant the end of a person’s social life. Instead, it signaled the beginning of it. It also meant the morning could start earlier. Factories began running all night long in order to increase production. Electric light forever changed the way we work, produce, sleep, and live.

With all of this new light, the daily sleep rhythms that once existed nearly disappeared. It became much more difficult to blend our natural sleep patterns with modern world advances – especially as that electricity traveled from lamps and light posts to the palm of our hands through smartphones and tablets. Remember, light inhibits your levels of melatonin, and melatonin induces sleep. In the old days before electric light, most people’s nighttime routine consisted of two sleeps, not a solid eight hours. In the historical novel Pillars of the Earth, the author tells of monks living in 12th Century England who went to sleep at dusk, awoke around midnight for an hour or two of prayer, and then went back to sleep. Before the advent of artificial light, this sleep pattern was the norm for most people.

Our sleep styles have certainly changed over the years, and light has likely had more of an impact than any other single element. When it comes to sleep, electricity and lifestyle changes can and do take their toll. How else has the night changed over the years? For more information about the history of the night stay connected to Sleep Geek the entire month of October. And to learn more about the history of light and the night, read this article from the Wall Street Journal.


About Lauren

Lauren Zimmerman has experience in social media, content creation, online community management, and evaluating analytics. She enjoys reading, watching movies, trying new restaurants, and spending time with family and friends. View all articles by Lauren
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