In my unpublished and as yet unsold book on aging I go into some detail about first and second sleeps. It’s an old idea, recognized in ancient Roman times, referred to in Chaucer’s Tales and based on former accepted sleep patterns. You think adult humans need eight hours a day of sleep. I think this became an acceptable (forced) idea with the Industrial Revolution. The circadian rhythm had to be amended or discarded so that workers could put in a 9-to-5 day on the job.
As a writer, of course, I don’t have to do that. I don’t go out to work, I stay in. . So I can sleep when I feel like it. More or less, more now that I am alone. Of course, one has to conform to others' sleeping habits – that is - waking habits. I have to be careful not to phone anyone before 9 a.m. when for me the morning is halfway over. It’s always a pleasure when I find someone who is awake (and alert) before then. A couple of times on trips someone has discovered me, bright –eyed and bushy-tailed (what does that mean, exactly?) at 7 in the morning, and each time he (always male) has said:
“I’d like to have breakfast with you for the rest of my life.”
I knew it wasn’t a proposal; it was just appreciation of another human being who was conscious at that hour in the morning.
I bring this up now because there’s a new term for this ancient sleep pattern: “segmented sleep”. Recently I have read a couple of articles in the NYT about it, and the growing acceptance of it, if not as a general pattern, at least a recognized one. It’s two sleeps instead of one: an early sleep of three or four hours, then a wakeful time for contemplation or sex, then a second sleep, maybe two or three hours, equally deep, with REM. The trick is to fit the time required into the rest of the day, or night.
I haven't mentioned naps. That's another discussion.