Why Our Ancient Ancestors Slept Less Than Us But Had More Energy Than We Do

By on August 17, 2017

The presence constant light emanating from artificial sources such as our light bulbs and the fully lit screens of our smartphones often get blamed for the discrepancies in our sleep patterns. Although, there is truth in that we should be holding our ancestors more accountable for feeling sleepy at odd hours or not feeling ‘refreshed’ after a full nights sleep says a recent study.

You’d think our ancient ancestors got at least eight hours of solid sleep in a cave, right? Well, it turns out our ancestors had to take regular short bouts of naps during the day and stay up for short periods during the night to keep a look out for predators and other rival groups of humans.

The study published in the Proceedings of the Royals Society B indicates that their sleeping pattern ensures that one or some people remained awake while the others slept; making sure the person asleep (the more vulnerable to attack) is being looked out for.

The researchers from the University of Toronto studied the sleep patterns of the Hadza People of the Tanzania who still live the hunter-gatherer lifestyle that originated thousands of years ago.
After monitoring their sleep patterns over 20 days and nights they found that there were only 18 minutes when all 33 tribe members were asleep at the same time. There were at least eight people on an average that remain awake through the night at a given time.

The researchers also stated the younger Hadza lot were termed as ‘owls’ since they stayed up late during their procreation years and the grandparents were referred to as ‘larks’ because they woke up early and sleep poorly.
“Researchers have theorized that one of the reasons grandparents live so long past their reproductive years is that their function is to take care of grandchildren,” says David Samson, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto Mississauga. “Our hypothesis is that their lark behavior and shorter sleep times serve a function: the elders serve as sentinels at the times of day when others are sleeping. Therefore, it’s important to have people of all ages in any population,” as stated by the University of Toronto.

Whether you’re a young adult or an older one the only way to get complete sleep is to nap in short bouts after all!

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