Our ancestors were no better at getting off to bed early.
The fact that we tend to get less than the optimal eight hours of sleep a night has often been seen as a result of our modern lifestyles, but now researchers at the University of California have revealed that the same problem might have also blighted our ancestors.
By studying the sleeping patterns of the traditional pre-industrial peoples of Namibia, Bolivia and Tanzinia – who it turned out only got around 6.5 hours of sleep a night – the scientists were able to determine that living in a modern society is not enough in itself to explain this particular trend.
“The argument has always been that modern life has reduced our sleep time below the amount our ancestors got, but our data indicates that this is a myth,” said study author Jerome Siegel.
The study also suggested that the availability of modern lighting was not responsible for our changing sleep patterns because the traditional hunter-gatherers also stayed up after dark to complete the essential tasks needed to sustain their lifestyles.
“There’s this expectation that we should all be sleeping eight or nine hours a night and that if you took away modern technology people would be sleeping more,” said study author Gandhi Yetish.
“But now for the first time we’re showing that’s not true.”