Modern Hunter-Gatherer Don't Sleep More Than We Do

Posted: Oct 16 2015, 7:32am CDT | by , Updated: Oct 16 2015, 7:54am CDT, in News | Latest Science News


Our Ancestors Didn't Sleep More Than We Do
This photo shows two San people in Tsumkwe, Namibia, taken at the start of the study. /CREDIT: Josh Davimes
  • Insomnia found to have Other Causative Factors than the Stresses and Strains of Modernism

The scourge of insomnia has been found to have several other causative factors that contribute to its aetiology. That is other than the stresses and strains of modernism and our high tech times.

The commonsensical thought that modern artificial lighting and breakneck speed of events were responsible for the curse of insomnia has been debunked. 

For quite some time, researchers have claimed that electronic items of daily use cause insomnia. These include smartphones, televisions monitors and the hurry-scurry lifestyle that come with the territory.  

Sleep is partially an unconscious process. You cannot force yourself to go to sleep. Like romantic love and individual temperament, it comes naturally. But the real reason behind the breakdown of sleep patterns in human beings lie elsewhere than in high tech gadgets.

Americans are said to be in a state of sleep debt. Yet the latest evidence points to the sleep quality and duration of most Yankees as being more satisfying and longer than the inhabitants of hunter-gatherer societies.  

It had been thought that poor sleep patterns were as common as the obesity epidemic in America. Physicians recommend at least 7 hours of preferably uninterrupted sleep per night.

Too much weight and chronically painful diseases may be to blame for the current phase of insomnia. But ironically Hunter gatherers didn’t follow the early to bed and early to rise dictum of Benjamin Franklin.

Yet they were healthy and lived well into the golden years that were their 60s and 80s. Those who sleep less than the standard 7 hour of sleep per nightly basis often fall prey to diseases such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiac problems, stroke, depressive illness and other mortal ailments.

"The short sleep in these populations challenges the belief that sleep has been greatly reduced in the 'modern world,'" says Jerome Siegel of the University of California, Los Angeles.

"This has important implications for the idea that we need to take sleeping pills because sleep has been reduced from its 'natural level' by the widespread use of electricity, TV, the Internet, and so on."

The surprising fact that has been discovered is that it is the quality of the sleep that matters and not the quantity. If you woke up each day refreshed from a decent amount of shut-eye, that in itself was sufficient and you didn’t have to worry any further about the matter.

The perception of how refreshing the sleep was is of paramount importance. And sleeping pills are not a viable solution since they are addictive and cause a series of nasty side effects. The real crux of the matter is that we are sleeping radically differently today than we were more than a century ago.

Before the industrial revolution, the sleep schedule was dictated by the rise and fall of temperatures throughout the day. As the climate became cool at night, people naturally fell asleep. And as temperatures rose towards the morning hours, they woke up.

But today, the constant temperatures of residential settings due to air conditioning in summers and internal heating in winters leads to a blunting of effect. The change in temperature needed as cues for sleep onset and curtailment are simply not there. And therein lies the rub.    

The study published in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on October 15.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
Sumayah Aamir (Google+) has deep experience in analyzing the latest trends.




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