What is meant by natural sleep is the regular nightly repose that is natural for human beings. The following study is concerned with finding the right time for natural sleep with regard to youths and adults, but not yet for children.
The whole universe is permeated by the solemn and strict law of nature. She rules the largest star with its unimaginable mass and dimensions down to the smallest grain of sand, the delicate filament as well as the tree, the most simple to the most complex living creature, creation as well as decay, change as well as immutability. As a part of the cosmic organism, human beings are also subject to the laws of nature. At the same time, they are capable of acting against them. However, punishment is inherent in each infringement of the law in proportion to the magnitude of the violation and, in the worst cases, finds its reprisal in death.
One of the fundamental laws is that of time. If the procession of the heavenly bodies were to hesitate for just one second, the universe would be in danger of collapsing in ruins. "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose..." The understanding is thus forced upon us that human sleep has a certain natural time allotted to it i.e., people who live under similar conditions, if not hindered by their work situation, noise or other conditions, would seek similar periods of rest.
According to the views of most doctors and laymen, an adult person needs approximately eight hours of sleep although they admit that individuality can exert a large influence on this. It is regarded as advisable to go to bed at 10 pm and to get up in the morning at 6 or 7 a.m. Some think it does not matter when one goes to bed. In practice, irregularity is the order of the day. Those who have worked hard physically all day are happy to go to bed early, those who do not have to work hard usually stay up longer. The question of the correct sleeping time is one which has not been given the attention it deserves.
Even if the methods for solving the problem differ from each other: experiment is the decisive factor. Therefore, one must continue experimenting until the natural law of sleep, and thus the most effective nightly repose, has been determined.
The experiences already gathered prove that the hours of sleep before midnight are the most valuable. All those who work physically hard tell us that the time of sleep before midnight is absolutely necessary for them to maintain their strength. Particularly those who live in rural districts are devout adherents of going to bed early. Doctors are also proponents of early bedtimes for their patients and the success of health resorts and sanatoriums is due, not least, to the regulation of the night's rest. As the famous doctor Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland said in his world-renowned book "Macrobiotics or the Art of Prolonging Human Life" (published in 1797), two hours of sleep before midnight is of more value than four hours of sleep during the day.
It will be sufficient to offer only a few illustrative examples from the plethora of assembled experiences. Before the age of agricultural machines, physical effort was necessary for carrying out most farm work. According to elderly witnesses, the winter season timetable in some parts of Germany was as follows: People often arose at 1 o'clock in the morning, worked on the threshing floor until 5 or 6 and then started the regular day's work. Bricklayers, carpenters or factory workers who lived in the country and often had to be at their place of work several miles away at 6 or 7 in the morning used to labour for several hours beforehand for a farmer who would then plough their land or repay them otherwise in kind. They would then go to bed at about 8 o'clock in the evening. These people, with their prodigious daily load of work, maintained that the source of their strength lay in the period of sleep before midnight.
The words of Hufeland are also remarkable: "All those attaining old age were lovers of early rising"; he then lists several people who reached an age of over 130 years. An intelligent, still relatively active woman of 87 who worked in her garden in summer at 4 o'clock in the morning, explained that trust in God and retiring early were instrumental in keeping up her strength. The life tasks that this old woman had to deal with were enormous, but did not wear her down.
The fact is well known that many great people were, and are, early risers, amongst them Frederick the Great, Napoleon I, Goethe, Humboldt, Edison.
In this context, let us remember the physiological rule! A healthy person falls into a deep sleep shortly after retiring to bed. This sleep lasts for roughly two hours, followed by a gradual transition into lighter slumber. Therefore, the depth of sleep is a decisive factor, and not its length. From these facts we can see that quite often it is a short period of sleep which is instrumental in sustaining the highest achievements, and that pre-midnight sleep plays an important role.
Let us take a short look at the animal world - insofar as it is not predestined by nature for nocturnal pursuits! Even in summer, if not disturbed, animals will seek their beds quite early. For instance, chickens and swallows will roost at 6.30 p.m. Bedtime is noticeable throughout nature at about that time - but can only be perceived where there is still sensitivity toward nature. Long before the sun appears, the first cock's crow can be heard announcing that it is on its way.
What experience teaches us must be founded physiologically in the body itself. Towards evening, the bodily temperature rises in the so-called evening fever to sink again around midnight. Nature, therefore, is apparently attempting to protect the resting body from becoming too cool. She does not offer a warm shell, but rather the raising of the body's temperature.
Another physiologically proven fact is important for our study: the fact that the longer one sleeps the more drowsy, reluctant and prone to illness one becomes. For instance, sleeping for too long stimulates the production of hand and foot perspiration, the occurrence of headaches and loss of appetite.
We have attempted to approach the solution to the problem by means of experiment. The method of proceeding was clearly defined: Those who declared themselves willing to participate in the experiment were to gradually move their sleeping time to the pre-midnight hours and to allow themselves to be medically observed during this time. This procedure was carried through as planned with a number of adults and young people. The results are published here in order that everyone will be encouraged to draw his or her own conclusions by making the experiment of moving of their sleeping hours to natural time, and also to throw light on this extremely important concept; as sleep brings forth life, natural sleep brings forth natural life, and the healthiest sleep brings forth the healthiest life.