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The $430 billion secret the sleep industry doesn't want you to know.
You lose sleep and they get rich.
Hello my fellow warriors. I'm back with more ammunition to help you fight against the giants and reclaim our humanity. This time we're going to discuss sleep. As you've seen with some of my earlier articles you'll undoubtedly begin to recognize a theme —we, the human race, currently exist in a period of forgotten knowledge which is leading to our own demise.
Sleep is incredibly important to the human body and like eating, it is something that humans have been able to do with ease for thousands of years without the need for modern intervention. Yet, here we are. Sleep health —like nutrition health— has come under commercialization in our modern day in order to boost the profits of companies claiming to rescue us all from our inability to get a good night's rest. As of 2022, the sleep economy was valued at $62 billion in the United States alone and over $430 billion globally while the market continues to grow like wildfire.
Takeaway: Your inability to sleep makes people rich.
How is it that humans now need assistance to sleep? What would be the evolutionary advantage of sleep failure? The need for sleep is properly basic and innate. No one needs to be convinced of its use or how to do it. Stay awake long enough and eventually your body will collapse into much needed slumber. While most people realize the human body requires sleep, many underestimate its actual importance.
Sleep is necessary for survival and delivers numerous health benefits. This altered state of consciousness provides the brain's glymphatic system an opportunity to cleanse and refresh itself. Failure of this process leads to increased toxicity of the brain. It is believed brain toxicity plays a major role in Alzheimer’s pathology. Sleep is also responsible for muscle and cellular repair and immune system strengthening. Speaking of immune systems, the largest mammalian immune system resides in the gut and it is during sleep that digestive tissue is repaired and good bacteria is encouraged to grow in order to limit the growth of bad bacteria in the gut. Failure of gut healing encourages intestinal permeability —damaged gut lining— which leads to a plethora of health issues ranging from hormonal imbalances to autoimmune disorders.
Sleep is a necessary asset for resetting and recharging the human body. Without enough of it the body becomes stressed and will eventually incur disease. Unfortunately for us all, if there's a potential for disease rest assured the pharmaceutical industry will lock arms with the $5 billion health and wellness industry to instill fear to convince us we need their solutions to achieve optimum health.
Years ago I became incredibly interested in sleep. What sparked this interest was my desire to improve my sleep health which had always been poor. Back when I served in the United States Air Force my schedule consisted of working two day, two mid, and two night shifts in a row followed by three days off. This was my schedule for over three years and it was brutal. Post military life I made things worse by devaluing sleep in pursuit of entrepreneurship and chasing other lofty personal goals. Sleep was just never important to me. It was nothing for me to pull an all-nighter. Despite having some health challenges that the military blessed me with —as they do most veterans— my health was OK. But a few years ago I started challenging myself to be better than OK and seek out how to essentially rebuild my body from the ground up. I learned that improving my sleep health was going to be an essential factor in doing so.
At the start of my journey I learned that we've all been conditioned to approach sleep incorrectly. This conditioning has put us at a disadvantage with our health while fattening up the pockets of Big Pharma as well as the general health and wellness industry. For the many people that struggle to get a proper 7-9 hours of sleep they look to purchasing sleep aids in an attempt to achieve rest. These aids can be anything from sleep devices to melatonin supplements. But this all begs serious questions. Why have we suddenly forgotten how to sleep? Why do we need "sleep experts" to recommend to humanity how it should sleep or how many hours are necessary to thrive? Why do we now need sleep aids? Didn't we intuitively figure this out thousands of years ago? Yes. Yes we indeed did. So what happened?
Roger Ekirch - Segmented Sleep
I've always been the type to wake up 2-3 times a night. This is a habit I've had since I was a child and today sleep experts have us all convinced this is a bad thing. We're told we should sleep through the entire night, potentially waking up only once as anything more than that will put you at risk for sleep deprivation. We're told that waking up in the middle of the night can be classified as insomnia. This obviously instills fear in people because sleep deprivation does have very real consequences.
If you're like most people, you worry about sleeping through the night and fear of failing to do so is putting your health at risk. The constant anxiety of becoming an insomniac does nothing but create more anxiety. This makes it even harder for you to sleep as the anxiety can lead to true insomnia, morphing your body into something that looks like a living corpse from Raccoon City. For years I believed the same nonsense concerning "how to sleep". I also became a victim of the cycle of anxiety meets insomnia meets anxiety. No matter what nighttime ritual I deployed I still couldn't sleep through the entire night. Some of the common recommendations you'll see or hear are; turn off blue lights two hours before bed, take a warm shower to relax your body, take a cold shower to cool your body, eat earlier in the evening, eat a heavier meal for dinner, eat foods with tryptophan, stay away from all caffeine to include chocolate, stretch, read a book to relax your mind or meditate or take sleeping pills. All of this to sleep through the night? Maybe, just maybe there's a reason the body wakes up throughout the night?
My research to this dilemma led me to what's called biphasic sleeping —a sleep pattern that is broken up into two phases in the night. There's also polyphasic sleeping —a sleep pattern that is broken up into several segments throughout a 24-hour period. These practices date back to antiquity lending credence to the fact humans were meant to always sleep in a non-monophasic way —the opposite of how we've all been trained to sleep today. In short, we've all been indoctrinated to sleep in a way that is antithetical to our human nature and fills the pockets of greedy corporations. Just like we've all been indoctrinated to eat in a way that is antithetical to our human nature, incur diseases and fill the pockets of greedy corporations who pretend to work on solutions.
Current research by historians, anthropologists, and physiologists have evidenced that our preindustrial sleep patterns have been erased from our memories.
Sleep historian Roger Ekirch included some astonishing research findings in his 2005 book, At Days Close, Night in Times Past:
There is every reason to believe that segmented sleep, such as many wild animals exhibit, had long been the natural pattern of our slumber before the modem age, with a provenance as old as humankind. As suggested by recent experiments at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland, the explanation likely rests in the darkness that enveloped pre-modem families. In attempting to recreate conditions of deprived of artificial light at night over a span of several weeks, eventually exhibited a pattern of broken slumber - one practically identical to that of preindustrial households. Without artificial light for up to fourteen hours each night, Wehr's subjects first lay awake in bed for two hours, slept for four, awakened again for two or three hours of quiet rest and reflection, and fell back asleep for four hours before finally awakening for good. Significantly, the intervening period of "non-anxious wakefulness" possessed "an endocrinology all its own," with visibly heightened levels of prolactin, a pituitary hormone best known for stimulating lactation in nursing mothers and for permitting chickens to brood contentedly atop eggs for long stretches of time. In fact, Wehr has likened this period of wakefulness to something approaching an altered state of consciousness not unlike meditation.
This phenomenon shows that without artificial lighting, the human body possesses a default way for experiencing sleep. It segments sleep.
Ekirch also had this to say:
Until the modern era, up to an hour or more of quiet wakefulness midway through the night interrupted the rest of most Western Europeans, not just napping shepherds and slumbering woodsmen. Families rose from their beds to urinate, smoke tobacco, and even visit close neighbors. Remaining abed, many persons also made love, prayed, and, most important, reflected on the dreams that typically preceded waking from their "first sleep." 1
The way we sleep today can be described as a result of social construction. The invention of artificial lighting brought with it the desire to flee the fear of darkness for the light, increase production and guilt for those who enjoyed rest.
Moreover, ethnographic evidence indicated that a variety of non-Western cultures, bereft of modern lighting, experienced first and second sleep — among them the Tiv of central Nigeria and the Surinamese Maroons. In short, far from being timeless, our form of slumber today is remarkably young, with a provenance dating back only two centuries, not to the primeval past.
Segmented sleep is a practice that reaches far into antiquity. In fact the bible delivers several accounts of full fledge, wakefulness activity at night and uses the term "watches" to divide the night. One examples is the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25:1-13, where it is possible to go out and purchase oil at midnight. In Luke 12:36-38 the idea of second and third watch at night is revealed. The idea of watches can be further found in Matthew 14:25 —where we're introduced to the idea of the fourth watch— Matthew 24:43 and also Mark 6:48. In Mark 13:35 we can clearly see the breaking up of the night into four segments. This was the common way to divide the night during the Roman era.
35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— Mark 13:35 (ESV)
We can go back even further in time and see the practice of dividing the night in the Old Testament.
19 “Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches! ...” - Lamentations 2:19 (ESV)
19 So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just set the watch... - Judges 7:19 (ESV)
11 And the next day Saul put the people in three companies. And they came into the midst of the camp in the morning watch... - 1 Samuel 11:11 (ESV)
The way we experience sleep today is radically different to what the human body prefers. One of the reasons why so many people struggle with sleep is because they're fighting against human biology. We've all bought into the notion that our bodies require 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night and if you can't obtain it, then something is wrong with you. This is simply not true. The human body does require rest. It absolutely needs sleep and the opportunity to recharge and heal. However, it also needs to recover in the way that is most beneficial to itself. Ultimately the body requires to sleep in accordance to its own biological clocks which are attuned to its circadian rhythm —physical, mental and behavioral changes that take place over a 24-hour period.
The industrial age brought much disruption to our circadian rhythms. Unlike virtually every other creature on the planet, humans work against their own natural processes in an effort to create unregulated days —days that are not regulated by time, light or natural processes in pursuit of productivity. Current society treats the morning no different than the night. This has created the idea that hours are simply hours and the only thing that matters is that you carve out a few of them for sleep. I'll touch on this idea in future articles but for now, the important takeaway is that the human body desires sleep in a segmented fashion for its own regulatory purposes. This does not mean we can't sleep for 7 hours straight or that one is necessarily damaging their health by doing so. The message here is this recent belief of needing to obtain 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep isn't true as the body does not need to sleep this way. It actually doesn't prefer it all according to the evidence.
I can attest to the benefits of allowing the body to sleep as it needs. I no longer stress over my sleep when I wake up at 2 am. Instead of laying in bed and stressing I may get up and read, write, study or knock out some projects. When I become sleepy again, I return to bed. I've learned to listen to my body instead of assuming something is wrong because I'm not sleeping according to advice by "sleep experts". Advice that is frankly wrong according to the evidence.
Another benefit I've noticed is my body feels more refreshed because I'm not trying to force myself into sleep, which used to result in an endless sleep wake cycle that caused me to feel horrible in the morning. If your body won't let you sleep, it's possible that it just isn't ready for sleep. I'll cover additional possible reasons for this in future articles as well.
I've found that approaching sleep as a tool for improving my health instead of a task or chore that must be done has led to increased productivity in my life. It has removed the unnecessary mental anxiety that was steeped in fear of insomnia or experiencing some other ill health effect. There's also the added benefit of learning to listen to my own body. Our society has become duped by modern day "experts" as if humans have not been thriving for many thousands of years and it has become increasingly difficult to become attuned to what our bodies are communicating. This coupled with innovations sparked by the advent of the agricultural and industrial ages have wrecked our biological senses. A global study produced in 2019 resulted in 61% of participants stating they were sleep deprived. Clearly sleep deprivation is a problem for most people.
Sleep shouldn't be something that requires work, tips and tricks from so-called experts nor should it require supplementation. It is a natural process that ultimately needs no help, unless one decides to work against the natural, biological processes predetermined by the human body —which many people do today. The next time you find yourself up in the middle of the night, instead of tossing and turning or popping melatonin pills, perhaps using the time to be productive may lead to a better night's rest. And a better night's rest can lead to better health.
2001 Sleep We Have Lost: Pre-industrial Slumber in the British Isles