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Primitive societies don’t need 8 hours sleep, do we?

For a long time it's been assumed that humans need eight hours of sleep, and that digital devices are stopping us from getting a full night's rest. Recent research calls that into question.

If you did what a lot of people do on Sundays, and slept in, enjoying that full, relaxing 8 hours of sleep, you may have actually overslept. While many of us have been told for years that a full eight hours of sleep is necessary for most people, scientists studying primitive societies have discovered that this may not be true.

In fact, scientists studying 3 primitive societies, two in Africa, one in South America, found that people living in a gadget and electricity free environment still slept only 6.5 to 7 hours. This refutes the long held belief that gadgets, and ample night lighting is keeping people up late into the night.

The three societies that were selected based on their lack of modern technology and more traditional lifestyles.

Researchers found that even in electricity-free societies, most people stayed up, on average, 3.5 hours after the sun had set. This refutes the old notion that people simply rolled over and went to sleep as soon as darkness set.

Researchers came to these conclusions after studying three present-day primitive societies, two from Africa and one from South America, and found that the people in these societies only slept, on average, six to seven hours per day.

Perhaps somewhat ironically, to track sleeping patterns, scientists actually used a device that resembles a sort of watch, but instead of telling time tracked when people were asleep and when they were awake.

Further, even though the adults in these primitive societies weren’t getting the Western recommend 8 hours of sleep per day, they did not suffer from insomnia, sleep deprivation, or have a need for midday naps.

Adding all of the data up seems to suggest that people only need 6.5 hours or so of sleep.

Is this conclusion conclusive? Perhaps not, but John Peever, an unaffiliated sleep researchers sleep from the University of Toronto put it this way:

“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 amount as the average Joe does here in North America.”

Unsurprisingly, most of the test subjects reported better health, with much lower obesity rates, more healthy blood pressure levels, and healthier hearts. Of course, their high health measures may have had more to do with their more active lifestyles, and less calorie-packed diets.

The study offers a strong counter-argument to the belief that modern technology is keeping people up at night. According to some, we are missing out on sleep because we are spending more time on smartphones, watching TV, and using other devices.

If this theory were true, people who lacked access to such devices should, theoretically, be getting more sleep. As the researchers found, however, this simply isn’t true. Instead, we may be staying up late using our gadgets simply because it is the right thing to do.

Oversleeping, by the way, can increase your chance of dying. Research has found that people who sleep more than 8 hours a day are more likely to die. Just something to think about the next time you sleep in.