Waking up prematurely is actually not a sleep disturbance. More accurately, it is perceived as an exception and a disturbance if the person has wrong expectation or does not accept himself as a short sleeper. What is involved is hence a variation within the norm.
As with biological clocks and circadian rhythms discussed on page 24, some few people have a shorter-than-24-hour cycle. This shortening of the sleep-wakefulness mechanism is a form of instinct biologically determined behavior. It seems moreover to be coupled with a slightly hyperthymic personality whose temperamental disposition is abnormally creative, and enterprising. The saying, "Morning hours are golden hours," probably originated with someone inclined to be a short sleeper. In any event, the saying applies to a person having such a short sleep cycle.
The feeling of restoration in the morning depends, as already described, on the quality rather than on the duration of sleep—i.e., it depends upon the relation between the totality of the dream stages and other sleep. Moreover, there is no immediate connection between the day's activity and the need for sleep at night. Demands made on oneself during the day, a busy schedule, work done with verve and pleasure can even diminish the need for sleep. Here, too, the initial psychic state determines the restorative effect of the night. From the outset, the idea of not having slept enough is fundamentally false. It is false, because it refers to a non-existent sleep norm and to a claim on sleep. All that is accomplished by trying to meet such an absolute demand is to make life difficult without achieving anything.
The question of sleep before midnight belongs in this context.
At the end of the last century, a pedagogue by the name of Stoeckmann developed the idea of "natural sleep," meaning sleep before midnight. He enthusiastically promoted the idea that people who wanted to live healthy lives should, as a result of adjusting to sun time, go to bed early. Doing so would enable them to sleep as much as possible before midnight and would accord with a nature-given manner of living that consists of "going to bed with the birds."
If the person had slept enough, he should get up, even if it were only shortly after midnight. People who lived in this manner would soon notice that they can get along with substantially less sleep than other people and that the time gained, even if used long before the start of regular social activity, was a plus.
From various statements made by Stoeckmann, it can be concluded that he must have been a person with a short circadian cycle and that he simply made a credo out of his early waking pattern. The same tendency applies to quite a number of thought associations made in one narrow area of thinking where the method used is to tone down or to emphasize ideas, depending upon how they fit into the theory. Many intellectual novelties are actually credos. Stoeckmann's sun-time thoughts may have been mixed up with health improvement ideas, as was the case with Kneipp, Schroth, and many others.
Even though Stoeckmann's views could not be verified, they nonetheless contain some laudable psycho-hygienic aspects, especially for the present era. Anyone who goes to bed before midnight has a better chance of starting the day well rested. By going to bed early, he is no longer under the pressure of time in having to fall asleep quickly. He can calmly look forward to the many hours of sleep ahead, which is in itself relaxing because it eliminates the compulsion toward success.
Unlike people in the average household, he does not need to subject himself to the evening TV, which is emotionally and probably even physically burdensome. TV is frequently associated with a heightened danger of intoxication (risk of poisons) as a result of smoking and
drinking while watching it. For example, if an actor on TV lights a cigarette simply because the script has not provided any instruction on how to fill a gap, millions of viewers imitate the gesture without even realizing it. It is
no different with reaching for a drink. It should be kept in mind also that dogs avoid TV and move away from it. They hear the overtones, and although humans do not hear them, who is to say that their autonomic nervous system does not register them as an excitation?
Anyone who follows Stoeckmann's precepts and goes to bed early is not confronted with any of these danger. But to some extent he lives in an anti-social manner, since civilized living also includes evening social life. It would surely be preferable to plan more active, social evenings rather than being compelled to submit uncritically to passive social communication. Stoeckmann's ideal life style of sleeping before midnight can then be valid for us today without our having to become apostles of health.
People who are early risers, either because they go to bed with the birds in accordance with Stoeckmann's principles or because they, as hyperthymic personality types, are bursting with morning energy, usually do not suffer from their habit of getting up early. At best, the only ones who suffer from their waking habits are those in the immediate vicinity who are perforce swept up into fervid activity.