Sleep in the Biblical Period

  • Sonia Ancoli-IsraelEmail author


Scientists today consider their discoveries to be landmarks. Yet thousands of years ago, there was already a tremendous amount of knowledge about sleep. There are references to sleep in the Bible that can be directly interpreted by what we know today about sleep disorders. Our forefathers and foremothers deplored sleep deprivation, believing that it impairs life. They felt that excessive sleepiness is harmful. They understood that insomnia could be caused by stress and anxiety and by excessive alcohol, and that physical activity (exercise) and drinking milk could improve sleep. They suggested cures for insomnia, including some of the ideas included in today’s sleep hygiene rules. They understood that there is a rhythm or timing to sleep. Although we think we have discovered many new features about sleep disorders, most of what we have done is match scientific data to ideas documented in the Bible and Talmud. Our modern scientific knowledge about sleep is not new and existed even in biblical times. This wisdom is also mentioned in the Bible: “…what has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; and there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccle 1:9).


Sleep disorders Insomnia Circadian rhythms Sleep hygiene Aging Bible 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departments of Psychiatry and MedicineUniversity of CaliforniaLa JollaUSA

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