Twentieth-century capitalism already squeezed our sleep into an artificially compact period of eight hours. Scientific, historical and even literary evidence (pulled from Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales’) suggest that two separate chunks of nighttime sleep, plus daytime naps, are the more natural pattern for human beings. Electric lighting has irrevocably altered our circadian rhythms, and newer technologies and modes of production have done more damage. Siestas are incompatible with the assembly line or the all-night box store. (Just ask Spain, which is considering doing away with the tradition.)
When I turned forty my father told me that I’d enjoy my forties because in your twenties you think you know what’s going on, in your thirties you realize you probably don’t, and in your forties you can relax and just accept things. I’m 58 and he was right.