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Tikkun chatzot is recited almost by definition in the middle of the night. I know far more people who are still awake at that time (generally somewhere between 12 AM & 1 AM) than who sleep before it and wake up for it. So why do texts that discuss saying tikkun chatzot talk about waking up for it, rather than staying awake until chatzot, reciting tikkun and then going to bed until shacharit?

EDIT: Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 1:2:

ב הַמַּשְׁכִּים לְהִתְחַנֵּן לִפְנֵי בּוֹרְאוֹ, יְכַוֵּן לַשָּׁעוֹת שֶׁמִּשְׁתַּנּוֹת הַמִּשְׁמָרוֹת שֶׁהֵן בִּשְׁלִישׁ הַלַּיְלָה וּלְסוֹף שְׁנֵי שְׁלִישֵׁי הַלַּיְלָה וּלְסוֹף הַלַּיְלָה, שֶׁהַתְּפִלָּה שֶׁיִּתְפַּלֵּל בְּאוֹתָן הַשָּׁעוֹת עַל הַחֻרְבָּן וְעַל הַגָּלוּת, רְצוּיָה. ‏

One who rises to pray before his Creator should aim for the watches of seasonal hours, which are at 1/3 through the night, 2/3 through the night and the end of the night, because the prayer one prays at those times over destruction and exile are more accepted.

  • Related? judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/20723/… (If there is a reason one can't say tikkun chatzot without sleeping, that would answer this) – Ze'ev Felsen Nov 15 '17 at 1:11
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    People used to just go to sleep when it got dark. Your impressions of people are not at all typical, historically speaking – Double AA Nov 15 '17 at 1:12
  • @DoubleAA, they talk about staying up from saying tikkun until shacharit. So why not stay up until tikkun & then sleep after? – Ze'ev Felsen Nov 15 '17 at 1:29
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    Other than DoubleAA's historical context mention, I sense that the idea is that there is greater merit in specifically awakening to say Tikkun Chatzot, as most people would sleep throughout the night. If you were already awake, of course, you could say it, but the scope or reward of the mitzvah is prob. greater if you awakened for it. – DanF Nov 15 '17 at 2:25
  • "then going to bed until shacharit?" - Not really. Actually, the halacha mentioned is that people learn from the time of Tikkun Chatzot until the time of shacharit. If you assume this ruling, and combine it with what you asked, you would never sleep at all! Actually, you would probably fall asleep in the middle of Shacharit involuntarily. That would be worse. – DanF Nov 15 '17 at 3:07
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Historically, people did not stay awake long after dark. At night, you went to sleep; in the morning, you woke up. So when would you say tikkun chatzot? During the hour or two between your first and second sleeps. Most people don't know that sleeping for 8 hours straight is unnatural. It was far more common to sleep for 4 hours, wake up for an hour or two, then sleep for another 4 hours. A quick Google search for "first sleep second sleep" brings up articles from BBC and Science Alert, among others. When light at night became too common, people changed their sleeping patterns and stay awake longer into the night.

So, of course the texts discuss waking up for it. It's the natural thing to do.

As an aside, when i first learned this it gave me a new understanding to חצות לילה אקום להודות לך (Tehillim 119:62).

  • related judaism.stackexchange.com/q/16683/759 – Double AA Nov 16 '17 at 13:27
  • One concern that I have with this answer is that according to most opinions, chatzot is based on midway between sunset and sunrise which varies seasonally. It's not a fixed time. I gather that there is a window of when you can say Tikkun, but, people who are precise would start exactly at chatzot. Were people adjusting their sleeping schedule seasonally? – DanF Nov 16 '17 at 15:30
  • This practice of having two “sleeps” is often referred to as segmented sleep. – DonielF Nov 17 '17 at 0:08
  • @danf, yes of course everyone adjusted seasonally. They went to sleep when it got dark not when it was 10 pm. Chatzot didn't move for them. That's only for us with fixed 24 hour days because of the equation of time. – Double AA Nov 17 '17 at 0:36
  • @DoubleAA Ah yes ... the 'ol "farmer in the dell" :-) Lives without a clock so he can wake up with the cock :-) – DanF Nov 17 '17 at 15:35

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