For many years, scientists and health experts have said that we need an average of 7-8 hours of sleep each night. But could the latest study by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have proven them wrong?
There has always been an argument that modern day life and technology has stolen our sleep, but this new data indicates that this is in fact a complete myth. However, the findings do validate some of the other common idea’s for sleeping better and health, including the benefit of morning light, a consistent routine and ideal room factors.
In order to find out how sleep deprived we really are in modern society, a team of sleep experts spent three years studying the sleep patterns of three ancient groups of hunter gatherer tribes; the Hazda Tanzania, the San of Namibia and the Tsimane.
Cut off from electricity, media and other common distractions, these tribes were selected because their lifestyles came closest to our ancestors, which could help scientist determine whether we are actually sleeping less than ancient humans did more than 10,000 years ago.
While studying the sleep patterns of the three tribes, researchers took along special watch-sized devices that measured both sleeping and waking times, as well as light exposure. In addition to measuring when and how long all of the tribes slept during summer and winter, the team measured their body temperatures, the temperature of their environment and how much light they were exposed to; all of which are factors that are believed to impact quality of sleep.
Taking all of this into account, the team were able to gather some very significant findings that appear to go against everything we have previously been told about modern day sleep patterns and those of our ancestors.
One of the myths overruled by the results in the study is that people in past eras went to bed at sunset. Following analysis of the tribes, the study found that on average, they actually stayed awake 3 hours and 20 minutes after sundown. This suggests that the way in which we all stay up after sunset today, is in fact normal and is not a new development of our time.
The biggest finding of all was that all of the people studied slept for less than seven hours each night and we’re actually sleeping less than the low end of sleep recommended to industrialised societies around the world. In total, the tribes were clocking an average of 6 hours and 25 minutes.
Although many health professionals suggest that modern technology is to blame for our lack of ability to get 8 hours each night, the research teams believe that their findings prove the theory to be completely untrue.
Whats more, the researchers have also suggested that there is in fact no evidence that sleep patterns take a toll on our health. The tribal groups studied were all found to have lower levels of obesity and blood pressure, as well as higher levels of physical fitness.