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Scientists Rethinking Sleep Guidelines After Study
- Updated: October 16, 2015
The current guidelines for the amount of sleep that a person should get each night has been set at eight hours per night for decades. Now, some scientists are rethinking the sleep guidelines after reviewing the results of a new study. The study, published in Current Biology this week, showed that the doctor-recommended 8 hours of sleep time may not be what’s best for our bodies.
For the study, researchers analyzed the sleeping patterns of some of the world’s last hunter-gatherer tribes, including the Hadza of Tanzania, the San of Namibia, and the Tsimane of Bolivia. These groups live free from most of the modern distractions blamed for lack of sleep in industrialized nations. These groups were chosen for the study because they observe the same sort of of natural sleep ancient humans enjoyed roughly 10,000 years ago. Researchers recorded the sleeping habits of 94 of these tribes’ members for the study and obtained 1,165 days worth of data.
The data indicated that all three groups slept slightly less than 6.5 hours a night. It also showed that they did not call it a night when darkness fell and did not take naps during the day. The findings correlated to the way today’s industrial populations tend to sleep.
The researchers say that the findings challenge the belief that sleeping patterns have been greatly reduced in industrialized nations. Now, it appears that the current sleep guidelines are recommending too much sleep. Millions of dollars have been spent on research exploring why many people only get about 6 hours of sleep each night and how lack of sleep affects various physical and mental ailments. It now appears that lack of sleep may not be the problem.
The data also shows that napping is not common among the tribes studied. The San in Namibia recorded no afternoon naps during 210 days in the winter and 10 naps in 364 days in the summer. The other tribes showed similar results. The researchers estimated that naps potentially occurred on up to 7 percent of winter days and 22 percent of summer days.
The results of the study showed that many people may actually be getting the amount of sleep that they need, even if they are not meeting the established sleep guidelines with their sleeping patterns. It also indicates that the negative health effects that have long been attributed to lack of sleep may be triggered by something else entirely. More research is needed to definitively decide how much sleep a person needs each day, but the results of this research study seems to be a good place to start.