Before the 17th century, it was more common to sleep in 2 phases. This means that people would go to sleep for a few hours, then be up for while and then go back to sleep for another few hours.
People would use the awake time to write, pray, talk or have sex. Interestingly, the actual time spent sleeping is also 8 hours like today. The practice of sleeping only once for 8 hours straight has only become common since the industrial revolution and electrical lighting.
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Attributed to Sigismondo Coccapani [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons