Bed and rise times during the Age of Enlightenment: A case report

J Sleep Res. 2019 Dec;28(6):e12862. doi: 10.1111/jsr.12862. Epub 2019 Apr 22.


Studies have shown that our modern electrical lighting environment reduces naturally occurring seasonal variations in sleep-wake rhythms, such as longer sleep during the winter versus summer. However, less is known about how timing and duration of sleep were affected by the seasons in the premodern era, before the invention of electrical lighting. The Swedish researcher Olof Hiorter collected and documented geophysical data every hour during wakefulness in Uppsala, Sweden, between December 1746 and November 1747. In this way, his bed and rise times could be approximated. The data revealed that Hiorter's rise times occurred around 1 hr before sunrise in winter versus 1 hr after sunrise in summer. No such association was observed between the time of sunset and Hiorter's bedtimes. Finally, the time in bed was about 3.5-4 hr shorter in summer compared to winter. This 273-year-old case report suggests that time in bed and rise times of people from the premodern era exhibited seasonal variations.

Keywords: historical case report; seasons; sleep; sunrise; sunset.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • History, 18th Century
  • Humans
  • Lighting* / trends
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Seasons*
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sweden
  • Wakefulness / physiology*