(DAILY MAIL) -- Since I hit middle age, my own sleep has followed a pattern that might be familiar: I woke up in the middle of the night, and found it hard to get back to sleep. There are other types of insomnia: not being able to get to sleep, or waking up early in the morning. But the most common type is waking in the middle of the night, particularly as we get older, partly because our sleep is much lighter, but also because of things such as having a full bladder and feeling the need to go to the toilet.
And it used to be a serious problem for me: no matter how tired I was or what time I went to bed, I’d wake up at about 3am and lie in bed, for what felt like hours, trying to get back to sleep. Finally I’d drift off, only to be dragged awake again by the alarm clock.
Then, in 2016, while researching life in Victorian slums, I came across research by Roger Ekirch, a professor of history at Virginia Tech in the US. He claimed that my pattern – falling asleep, waking for a while, then falling asleep again – was how most people slept in pre-industrial times.
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