How we invented the modern concept of sleep

Everything has a history, even sleep.

It turns out that there is nothing natural about the way we sleep.

Dr Bodhisattva Kar, from UCT's Historical Studies department, explains how the major shift in sleep patterns coincided with industrial capitalism.

He says historians have shown that throughout much of human history, humans like animals, have always slept in phases.

Humans had always had what they technically called polyphasic sleep, which is you sleep in different segments, for a few hours, wake up and then sleep again.

Dr. Bodhisattva Kar, Head, Head (Academic) Department of Historical Studies, UCT

These major shift happened with the onslaught of industrial factory based production where the machines demanded that we work for compacted 8 hours at a go.

Dr. Bodhisattva Kar, Head, Head (Academic) Department of Historical Studies, UCT

Kar says people used to sleep at least two to four times a day and while it is a biological necessity

The interesting thing is that all those had to be somehow monitored, disciplined and regularised according to the need of the factory based capitalism.

Dr. Bodhisattva Kar, Head, Head (Academic) Department of Historical Studies, UCT

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