The conventional wisdom that you need 8 hours of sleep per night may be based on a series of scientific fallacies.
For many years, some experts have espoused that humans need eight hours of sleep a night, in part because they believed this is what our ancestors got. The thinking was that artificial light —from things like electricity, as well as TV, Internet and smartphones — has disrupted our sleep from what was natural.
But a study published Thursday in the journal Current Biology challenges that thinking. The scientists examined the sleep patterns over more than 1,100 nights of three preindustrial, hunter-gatherer societies — the Hadza tribe in Tanzania, the San in Namibia and the Tsimane in Bolivia — and found that people in each of these societies slept for an average of about 6.5 hours a night.
They also rarely nap, taking a daytime snooze on just 7% of the days in winter and 22% in summer. “The sleep in these traditional human groups is more similar to sleep in industrial societies than has been assumed,” the authors write. “They do not sleep more than most individuals in industrial societies.”
Other recent studies also show that the 8-hours-of-sleep rule may be outdated, but for a different reason. Some scientists tout this rule because they believe that’s the magic amount of sleep that can help prevent issues like disease and obesity. But in a study of 450 elderly women published in the journal Sleep Medicine, researchers — who tracked the women over 10 years — found that women who slept more than 6.5 hours (and less than 5) a night had higher mortality.
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