Technology has continuously been blamed for preventing millions of Americans from getting a good night s sleep. The iPhone, the computing tablet and the ubiquitous TV are the targets of societal scorn for messing up healthy sleep patterns. However, researchers studying isolated tribes in far-flung parts of the world found they, like those of us in the modern world, sleep roughly the same amount of time.
How much? An average of six-and-a-half hours each night.
The study, published in the journal Current Biology, focused on three current day hunter-gatherer tribes: the Hazda of Tanzania, the San of Namibia and the Tsimane of Bolivia.
Lead author, professor Jerome Siegel, and his colleagues based at the University of California, Los Angeles, stated that short sleep intervals in these populations challenges the belief that sleep has been greatly reduced in the modern world as a result of technology.
The researchers conducted their tribal analysis on sleeping habits focusing on 94 individuals around the clock, and collected data over a period of 1,165 days, or roughly three years and two months. The data on these groups revealed that sleep times averaged between 5.7 to 7.1 hours -- which is roughly the same amount of sleep the average American gets.
Researchers also reported that the tribesmen and women stayed up a little over three hours after sunset, and awoke before sunrise. Also, noted in the paper was that their sleep time seemed to be more closely associated with temperature than with light. The ancestral groups slept more when the temperature dropped and the night became colder. Overall the hunter-gatherers slept an hour more on average in the winter, as opposed to the summer.
Interestingly, the tribesmen and women experience far less chronic insomnia, which is a constant complaint in the United States -- causing some observers to shift some blame back on modern technology.
Dr. Siegel believes that mimicking aspects of the natural environment, where these tribes live, might be effective in treating certain modern sleep disorders, such as insomnia, the inability to fall asleep that affects more than 20 percent of the U.S. population. Some data does support this idea, as some behavioral interventions have shown to be more effective than pharmaceuticals in treating insomnia.