4. Daytime naps were common, though sleeping through the whole night was very rare
Unlike modern workers in the Western world, peasants of the Middle Ages did not sleep for eight hours at night. Rather, most would sleep for two four-hour periods between dusk and dawn, with a short period for telling stories, tending to animals or children, having sex or doing more work, in between. The more devout would pray, and there were special prayers designed for exactly this time of the night, while others would even leave the home and go visit friends or neighbors before going back to bed for their ‘second sleep’.
Many peasants would also nap as and when they could during the day. This was particularly the case during the summer months. While much work needed to be done in the fields, most laborers woke with sunrise. They would then work for a couple of hours and then pause for breakfast. After some more work, there would be lunch and then, according to some sources, many peasants would enjoy an afternoon nap.
According to some historians, though the job of working the fields might be backbreaking and physically challenging, it could be done at a leisurely pace – and often was. The pace of life in the Middle Ages was much slower than it was today. People, including the peasantry, had lots of free time, even if they didn’t have much – or any – money. However, most of the contemporary accounts of the working days of the Medieval peasantry that survive were written by nobles or members of the clergy. They often made a point of condemning the lowest members of society as lazy layabouts, so their accounts should always be taken with a pinch of salt!