A recent study warns that Americans might be hitting the snooze button too often.
According to Jerome Siegel, the lead author and director of the Center for Sleep Research at the University of California, Los Angeles, sleep patterns aren’t as susceptible to environmental influence as researchers once thought. The study downplays the environmental and cultural impacts on sleep habits, and suggests that the way we sleep on a deep-rooted evolutionary level.
“The short sleep in these populations challenges the belief that sleep has been greatly reduced in the ‘modern world,’” Siegel said. “This has important implications for the idea that we need to take sleeping pills because sleep has been reduced from its ‘natural level’ buy the widespread use of electricity, TV, the Internet, and so on.”
Doctors have blamed the lack of sleep for a wide range of health issues from obesity to depression, and believe that the overly stimulating abundance of technology also plays a role. Researchers believe that napping is a lost human trait, and that the mid-afternoon crash can be blamed on our departure from taking a snooze in the middle of the day.
The study shows no significant link between getting just 6.5 hours of sleep nightly and any of the health issues linked to sleeping in the modern world. Napping was rare among all three of the tribes studied, and when people did decide to take a nap, they rarely lasted more than 15 minutes.
Siegel believes that temperature has a large impact on sleep patterns. The study found that sleep in “both the winter and the summer occurred during the period of decreasing ambient temperature and that wake onset occurred near the nadir of the daily temperature rhythm.”
The proof is in the pudding; the hunter-gatherers studied averaged less sleep each night than leading health organizations recommend, and not a single individual suffered from obesity or mood disorders. Most of the people in the study also had lower blood pressure, healthier hearts, and were more physically fit.
Perhaps sleep isn’t the great indicator of health outcomes we once thought it was.