This Is How Humans Slept Before Technology Took Hold

Woman sleeping in bed with smartphone in hand
PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou via Getty Images
Woman sleeping in bed with smartphone in hand

A study of ancient tribes has offered a fascinating insight into how humans slept before our lives were infiltrated by technology and all of the distractions that come with it.

The study found that three groups of hunter-gatherers, who are totally removed from technology and live similarly to the pre-industrial era (think pre-18th century) get roughly six hours sleep each night.

Out of the tribespeople studied, none of them went to sleep when the sun set. Instead they'd head to bed roughly three hours after and would wake up before sunrise.

Scientists believe that their findings could disprove the fact we're getting less sleep because of technology.

"The short sleep in these populations challenges the belief that sleep has been greatly reduced in the 'modern world'," says Jerome Siegel from the University of California, Los Angeles.

"This has important implications for the idea that we need to take sleeping pills because sleep has been reduced from its 'natural level' by the widespread use of electricity, TV, the internet, and so on."

Researchers studied the sleeping patterns of three tribes: the Hadza of Tanzania, the San of Namibia and the Tsimane of Bolivia. They monitored the habits of 94 people in total.

The results, which were published in the journal Current Biology, showed that the three tribes all had very similar sleeping patterns despite living in different environments and having varying genetics.

The three groups, on average, slept for between 5.7 and 7.1 hours. In the winter, they would sleep for an hour more.

Interestingly, they would not go to sleep when the sun set. Instead, they were more likely to go to sleep when the temperature fell and would then sleep through the coldest part of the night.

Researchers also discovered that members of the ancient tribes were less likely to suffer from chronic insomnia and believe mimicking aspects of the natural environment could help those in the "modern world" who suffer from the condition.

Despite this interesting piece of research, other statistics show that tech is still very much an issue when it comes to sleep deprivation.

Academics at the University of Hertfordshire say nearly six in ten Brits now get seven hours sleep, or less, a night which puts them at risk of cancer, diabetes, obesity and heart attacks.

They attribute this to the disruptive blue light from device screens.

Richard Wiseman from the University of Hertfordshire said: "The blue light from these devices suppress the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, and so it's important to avoid them before bedtime."

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