Juan Basadre

Year: Junior

Major(s):  History, Anthropology/Sociology

Mentor: Dossey, Leslie

Department: History

Project Title: Sleep in Late Antiquity: A Cultural and Social History

Project Abstract: This project would analyze the sleep patterns of the ancient Romans and Greeks. Sleep, in general, is largely taken for granted in daily life, yet sleep plays a huge role in the life of the individual. What is less obvious, however, is the cultural construction of sleep patterns in societies. Sleeping the entirety of the night, without interruption, is likely an invention of the industrial age. Studies done on texts done on preindustrial Britain find that many writers note the segmentation of sleep into two main categories, “first sleep” and “second” or “morning sleep.” The period between these “sleeps” came about usually at midnight and typically involved quiet reflection or some short task for 1 to 3 hours. The primary sources of the period points to this time being used in a variety of ways, such as housework, lounging, or for some monks, as a time for prayer. Studies done in psychology find that greater access to manmade illumination helped change these sleep patterns, but the cultures of work within society seems to be the greatest influence on these changes. Further research then, is needed to understand this connection between societal influences, culture and the nature of work on the individual. This type of sleep pattern also must be further researched in Roman and Greek antiquity as the Roman empire especially, had a sophisticated economy which may have altered sleep patterns similarly to industrialization in Britain.