1706459083 When it comes to sleeping not everyone is the same

Six Things You Should Know About Sleep Duration | –

Eight hours of sleep is often presented as the norm, the magic number we should strive for. Is it universal? Has it always been like this? Overview of certain realities.

Published at 6:30 am.


Cultural variation

Sleep duration varies from country to country. According to a 2018 study published in The Economist, the Japanese sleep on average just over 6 hours and 15 minutes per night, an hour and a half less than the champions – New Zealanders. Canadians lead the way with an average of almost 7 hours and 25 minutes of sleep. Short nights are associated with poorer countries (Philippines, Malaysia) and countries that value productivity (Japan, South Korea) or even those where morning prayer is popular (Saudi Arabia, Egypt).

We sleep less than before…or not

Are we sleeping less in our modern societies than we used to? Some studies suggest yes (an hour to an hour and a half less on average), others suggest no. About a decade ago, psychiatrist Jerome Siegel of the University of California, Los Angeles, studied the sleep habits of three tribes in Tanzania, Namibia and Bolivia. He found that these hunter-gatherers slept almost six and a half hours a night and went to bed about three hours after sunset. In short, not as bad as us!

Eight consolidated hours, an “abnormal” model?

According to the (well-publicized) theory of Roger Ekirch, a history professor at Virginia Tech, people in pre-industrial times divided their sleep into two blocks and used this moment of awakening in the middle of the night to pray. meditate, write down their dreams, make love or even visit neighbors. The consolidated eight-hour sleep is therefore not “natural,” said Ekirch. Researchers later argued that there was simply a greater variety of sleep practices in the past.

Beware of connected devices

People are increasingly relying on watches and other apps to “measure” how much they sleep. Setting aside too little time for sleep alerts us, but be careful: these devices are not only “not very precise,” but can also cause “othosomnia” in some people, says Thanh Dang-Vu, a neurologist at the University Institute of Geriatrics of Montreal. “People who have a strong attachment to these values ​​can develop a form of performance anxiety related to their sleep,” the silver bullet… to insomnia.

Older people have the same needs

While it is true that children and adolescents need more sleep, it is wrong to say that older people need less sleep than younger adults, points out Professor Charles Morin, Canada Research Chair in Behavioral Sleep Medicine at the University of Laval. “As we age, we need just as much sleep, but we find it increasingly difficult to get good sleep,” he explains. Some older people accept this reality, others develop fear of it (and consequent insomnia!), and still others compensate by taking naps.

Getting enough sleep is important

It is important to meet your sleep needs. “During those eight to nine hours, our ancestors were completely vulnerable to everything, but nevertheless it is a trait that has been preserved in evolution. “That’s definitely important,” summarizes neurologist Alex Desautels. Lack of sleep is linked to an increased risk of diabetes, obesity, depression, certain cancers and cardiovascular disease, and reduces the effectiveness of the immune system. There is no evidence that people who genetically need less sleep are at the same risks.