Do We Really Need to Sleep 7 Hours a Night?

Interesting article in the New York Times. It talks about a new study of sleep in “…people in three different hunter-gatherer societies where there is no electricity and the lifestyles have remained largely the same for thousands of years.” They found that people sleep about the same as modern Americans. And they rarely sleep during the day. Here are the most important paragraphs in the article:

The prevailing notion in sleep medicine is that humans evolved to go to bed when the sun goes down, and that by and large we stay up much later than we should because we are flooded with artificial light, said Jerome Siegel, the lead author of the new study and a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute of Neuroscience and Human Behavior at U.C.L.A.

But Dr. Siegel and his colleagues found no evidence of this. The hunter-gatherer groups they studied, which slept outside or in crude huts, did not go to sleep when the sun went down. Usually they stayed awake three to four hours past sunset, with no light exposure other than the faint glow of a small fire that would keep animals away and provide a bit of warmth in the winter. Most days they would wake up about an hour before sunrise.

In a typical night, they slept just six and a half hours — slightly less than the average American. In the United States, most adults sleep seven hours or more a night, though a significant portion of the population sleeps less.

The assumptions that sleep experts make continue to puzzle me. It just illustrates how loosely connected the medical profession is to the reality of what people are experiencing while trying to go to sleep. Another paragraph in the article shows what I believe is even more ignorance in the scientific community:

Among sleep researchers it is widely believed that people sleep differently today than they did 150 years ago. Many argue that the invention of the electric light bulb in the late 1800s — and all the artificially lit environments that followed — dramatically changed our sleep patterns. Exposure to artificial light at night, whether from light bulbs or computer screens, throws off the body’s biological clock, delaying and reducing sleep, experts say.

They are simply shooting in the dark. I don’t believe this at all. No one studies what goes on inside the mind while the subject is trying to go to sleep. People are experiencing insomnia, but it is not caused by anything pointed out in these random guesses. I hope to expose the real problem and how to solve it when I publish In Pursuit of Sleep sometime in November.