We seem to regard seven to eight hours of unbroken sleep as our birthright. Anything less means that something is awry. And people are willing to try anything to achieve that solid slug of slumber. Like a new-millennium version of Goldilocks, they try firm beds, pillow-topped mattresses and all manner of sleep systems to find one that is "just right." They shun caffeine and change their diet--porridge and warm milk, anyone? They visit sleep clinics and swallow some $3 billion worth of sleeping pills every year.
Yet a recent discovery and a reexamination of some classic sleep literature suggest that for some people the perfect eight hours of sleep remains elusive for a very simple reason: our need for such uninterrupted slumber may be nothing but a fairy tale.
This article was originally published with the title Ancient Sleep in Modern Times.