Cradle of Stars

Back in the Day, Enough Sleep Was Still a Problem

Folks from UCLA are poking a hole in the popular notion that getting enough sleep is a particular problem of modern industrial societies. By studying hunter-gatherers in three remote communities of Africa and South America, they found that even in a pre-industrial society, getting that magic eight hours of sleep is not really typical. Instead, they found average sleep durations were 5.7 to 7.1 hours. Commenting on the publication, Professor John Peever of the University of Toronto said:

I think this paper is going to transform the field of sleep. It’s difficult to envision how we can claim that western society is highly sleep deprived if these groups that live without all these modern distractions and pressing schedules sleep less or about the same as the average Joe does here in North America.

None of this puts any dent in the notion that we need more than 7 hours of sleep on a regular basis for good health. Underscoring this fact is a new consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society that states:

Sleeping less than 7 hours per night on a regular basis is associated with adverse health outcomes, including weight gain and obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and stroke, depression, and increased risk of death. Sleeping less than 7 hours per night is also associated with impaired immune function, increased pain, impaired performance, increased errors, and greater risk of accidents.

We just have to give up the myth that it’s our busy, important, modern lives that are keeping us from getting enough sleep.

Click here to read the study, here to read the consensus what constitutes a healthy amount of sleep, and here to read more from the Atlantic.

Cradle of Stars, photograph © Scott Cresswell / flickr

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.


October 18, 2015