Scrolling on the cell phone or flickering televisions keep many awake longer than they actually want, alarm clocks wake millions from a deep sleep, street lighting makes many rooms too bright: Good sleep - it has a hard time these days.
The dream of a good night's sleep occupies many people every day. A current representative YouGov survey commissioned by the German Press Agency shows when Germans go to bed and how well or badly they sleep from their own perspective. But first things first.
"He who sleeps does not sin - he who sins before, sleeps better," Casanova is said to have said. Our language is full of idioms and sleep wisdom such as "sleep is the best medicine".
Sleeping all night in one go - even with the functional division of the day into eight hours of sleep, eight hours of work and eight hours of free time - is an idea of industrialization in Europe, possibly a pipe dream of capitalism. Modern times make the need for sleep a kind of blemish, a sign of supposed laziness.
The phenomenon of napping
A look at Spain, for example, shows that things could be different, for example, where people have largely been driven out of the siesta in modern everyday life in recent decades. The Japanologist Brigitte Steger ("Inemuri: How the Japanese sleep and what we can learn from them") also explained Japan's phenomenon of naps and superficial short sleeps during the day, for example on trains or on park benches. The Japanese term "Inemuri" is made up of words for "being present" and "sleep".
Historians emphasize that sleep is a bodily function with a history. The sleep-wake cycle not only depends on the body's own factors, but also on external ones - and the natural light-dark rhythm only plays a minor role.
The influence of work on sleep
"Sleep is deeply shaped by the society in which we live," says historian Hannah Ahlheim ("The Dream of Sleep in the 20th Century"). "Hardly anything affects our sleep as directly as our work: working hours determine when we get up and go to bed." Anyone who works in shifts, in the hospital, with the police, as a cleaner or as a taxi driver, often has to work at night and sleep during the day. The first thing a baby learns is to sleep in such a way that it doesn't interfere with everyday work.
"Since industrialization, we have had to keep up with machines that never get tired," says the historian Ahlheim from the University of Giessen. "Railways, assembly lines, also tablets and mobile phones. Today, the small devices bring us work to bed or even to bed, especially in times of the home office."
A good 20 years ago, the American historian and sleep researcher Robert Ekirch ("In the Hour of the Night: A Tale of Darkness") shook the idea that in the Middle Ages the dark night was only there for sleeping.
While researching sleeping habits in pre-industrial times, Ekirch had repeatedly come across old records that referred to "first" and "second sleep". Two-phase sleep existed for centuries, he concluded.
The night's sleep of a total of six to eight hours was therefore usually interrupted around 1 a.m. in order to have a few hours to yourself - to think, talk, pray, play or have sex. After that, they slept again.
The Frankfurt historian Birgit Emich examined the sleeping habits of people in the early modern period. Emich determined, for example, from guild regulations from the 16th to 18th centuries that craftsmen worked between around five in the morning and eight in the evening, i.e. probably slept between nine in the evening and four-thirty in the morning. This roughly corresponds to the closing times of the cities at this time, which were surprisingly the same across Europe: the gates were closed at nine in the evening.
Bedtime as a status symbol
A change then emanated from the courts of the rulers from the 17th century. Bedtime became a mark of distinction, an important differentiator, and a kind of status symbol.
"The courtly nobility distanced themselves from other classes through their evening activities, just like the merchants in the cities," says Emich. "The conquest of the night by courtly festival culture ensured that this process accelerated and socially expanded."
To this day, anyone can quickly differentiate themselves from the so-called hard-working population by turning night into day. Think of the role of nightlife for youth.
Incidentally, for centuries a comfortable bed was only for the rich. Poorer people mostly slept on the floor, perhaps on straw mattresses, and above all they seldom slept alone. People often slept in common rooms, lying or sitting.
In Germany, the majority sleeps before midnight
According to a new representative survey commissioned by the German Press Agency, a majority of adults in Germany always go to bed before midnight. In a survey by the polling institute YouGov, 73 percent said they went to bed before midnight on workdays (including 21 percent who say they go to bed between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.). Even before and on non-working days, more than every second person goes to bed before midnight, namely 45 percent between 10 p.m. and midnight and 10 percent between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.
40 percent of adults in Germany described the quality of their sleep as poor. 10 percent said they "didn't sleep well at all," and 30 percent said "rather not well." According to this, men sleep better than women: 62 percent of the male respondents called their sleep "rather good/very good", for women it was 55 percent.
Women have significantly more sleep problems
Overall, 7 percent said they "never" had trouble falling asleep or staying up late at night. Twenty-four percent said it "rarely" happened to them, and 33 percent said it "sometimes." After all, a third struggles with sleep problems (20 percent "often", 14 percent "very often"). Women have significantly more sleep problems: 40 percent of the female respondents admitted this, among men only 28 percent.
The average sleep time was 7 to 8 hours for 41 percent and 5 to 6 hours for the same number. 9 percent sleep less than four hours on average. 3 percent did not provide any information. In Germany, only around 7 percent sleep in late for more than eight hours. Incidentally, this proportion is the same for women and men.