Back-to-nature lifestyle of our ancestors 'no guarantee of good night's sleep'
Published 15/10/2015 | 17:51
Adopting the "back-to-nature" lifestyle of our ancient ancestors is no guarantee of a good night's sleep, research has shown.
It seems that hunter gatherers have much the same sleeping patterns as people living with TV, mobile phones, street lights, and constant traffic noise.
A study of three traditional societies in different parts of the world showed that on average they slept a little under 6.5 hours a night.
They did not take regular naps, and often stayed awake long after dark.
Lead researcher Professor Jerome Siegel, from the University of California at Los Angeles, US, said: "The argument has always been that modern life has reduced our sleep time below the amount our ancestors got, but our data indicates that this is a myth."
Prof Siegel's team studied the sleep patterns of the Hadza people in Tanzania, the San in Namibia, and the Tsimane in Bolivia.
In total, the sleeping habits of 94 individuals were recorded.
Similar patterns were seen across all three groups. Sleep time ranged between 5.7 and 7.1 hours, matching the low end of durations reported in industrial societies.
On average, the hunter gatherers stayed up a little over three hours after the sun set and woke before sunrise.
However, very few of them suffered from chronic insomnia.
The research is reported in the journal Current Biology.
Prof Siegel added: "The short sleep in these populations challenges the belief that sleep has been greatly reduced in the 'modern world.'
"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."