– BEWARE OF SLEEP SNATCHERS?
Is there any relationship between sleeping well, living and longevity? A 2012 study in California, United States of America by Time magazine shockingly indicates that the African Americans sleep less than their white American counterparts. This report however concedes that the study is inconclusive because of the time frame and its geographic concentration. Nevertheless, it raises some worry as to the sleeping habit of the African- American!
We begin by accepting that the whole world has day and night until Thomas Alva Edison altered it by his invention of incandescent bulb. Given impetus to man’s quest to accomplish a lot within a short time frame, electricity somehow initiate the leeway to sleeplessness. Many lowly people like slaves, domestic servants and labourers have been walking in the corridors of sleeplessness in various ways over the centuries. Suddenly, a general pathway of sleeplessness for most of the world was boosted by electricity. Accompanying technology and development in electronics in the 20th century continued to push the frontiers of sleeplessness. By the time cars and television became staples, sleeping disincentives have gone legion. The internet has recently joined the army of sleep takers and the list is growing.
The aforementioned study gives reasons for the growing sleeplessness among the blacks to include poor bed orientation from youth, living by the highways and concentrated suburbs in cities, anti-social lifestyles and predominantly poor economic status of the blacks in relation to other races. These variables may be implicated in that part of the world, but is there a difference in Africa as to the extent its people sleep in relation to other parts of the world. We are not going to dissipate energy on the conditions of many African cities and how the inhabitants react to it. Rather, more and closer examination will be made in the area of how Africans slept before the coming together of other races as it is today.
Some nocturnal animal names are given as sobriquet to hunters and men in some African villages. Some give intonation that the night is dangerous. The Igbos of southern Nigeria would describe thieves as ‘the night is dreadful or dangerous’ (abani di egwu!) Dreadful activities of institutions and cultural initiations are carried out in the night while people are asleep. In some parts of Nigeria, women going out to make a curse usually go unclad in darkness. Across the regions in Nigeria down to the Congo and in South Africa, male organizations in leadership operate in the night during initiations and other critical meetings. The night was hallowed and their traditional thinking and activities support respect for dark hours starting from evenings.
In many societies in Africa, it was a taboo to eat meals late in the night. Foods are cooked and eaten before insects known as shesheei start heralding the evening. There were many reasons for ensuring that food was eaten before dark. There was no electricity. There were also the fears that food could be poisoned in the dark and this may not easily be detected. To mitigate such situation, the person serving the food is usually as a matter of protocol, expected to taste the food before others eat. Unbeknownst to many persons of the beneficial value of early dinner and its implication on health, there are traditions that discourage late dinner. Over time by folklore, stories and anecdotes, eating early dinner became a way of life for many.
Eating dinners early makes room for family reunion where children are taught of the way to live a meaningful life according to their society. It provided opportunity for moon plays, tutelage in choreography and other useful training that can be given under relaxed conditions of the evening. There were no night vigils at regular interval. While there were enemies all over, the whole night was not devoted to chasing evil demons with anointed oil and holy ghost fire of all hues as it is in many African cities today.
For some, this may be romanticizing of the past. To some extent, that may be a valid statement. But is there anything to compare, glean and adopt to improve the current lifestyle of late dinners and associated late going to bed that has enveloped many of us in the cities and villages?
Africans in some parts eat a lot of carbohydrate but was balanced with other types of food. They engaged in physical exertion in their various trades and occupations. They ate early and the food was well digested because of being eaten before bedtime. They had a lot of sleep that ensure balance in the body working systems. The stress levels were managed properly by philosophical balance provided by the communal living of that time. In other words, Africans of the past, have seen many changes that things cannot be said to be truly the same by name or by posturing.
In fact, African life has altered greatly. But can one ruminate on the past to see how one can bring about a new balance to one’s way of life drawing copiously from the way our people lived in the past?
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