People who live in Paleolithic conditions don’t get any more sleep than modern people according to a recent study that studied the sleeping habits of three modern hunter-gatherer tribes. These folks don’t watch television, they don’t hang on the Internet, they don’t have alarm clocks, and yet they only clock in at around 6.5 hours per night, waking up refreshed before dawn.
I have always assumed that pre-industrial cultures slept better than we do. And when I say better, I mean longer. Finding 6.5 hours to be typical for these tribes is pretty amazing. With that sleep they feel rested and good.
What are some of the differences between the modern man and the hunter-gatherer?
The Modern Person
- Lives in a heated apartment where the temperature stays roughly the same all the time
- Eats highly processed foods and too much sugar
- Often drinks caffeine, alcohol, smokes
- Sits all day and gets little exercise
- Often sleeps in during the week-end and sleeps too little during the week
- Is constantly stressed out at work
So maybe eight solid hours is a myth. Maybe we need to sleep that much because our lifestyles are so taxing on our systems. We don’t get enough fresh air and exercise for our bodies to easily nod off at night so we toss and turn instead of resting. We eat meals that are too heavy to digest and survive on caffeine and sugar. Okay, when I say we I mean me, since I don’t know what the heck you eat, but you know what I mean.
Maybe we don’t actually need more sleep, but better sleep.
The Bushmen in the featured picture are not related to this story. The three tribes studied were African and South-American.