Sleep In the Modern World

How long would you sleep each night if you were freed from the constraints of the modern world? No alarm clocks, no appointments, no late night TV?

Would you sleep like a person from the year 1910? Back then, they averaged nine hours of dozing per night.

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Would you sleep like many citizens of rural Mexico, who get eight hours of slumber each night, supplemented by an hour and a half siesta each day.

Or maybe you'd sleep like our close evolutionary cousin the chimp, who gets about 10 hours of sleep altogether, when you add in the afternoon nap.

To find out, a group of researchers agreed to live for a summer at a decommissioned weather station inside the Arctic Circle. During arctic summers, of course, the sun never sets, so they had no day/night cycle to affect their schedule. They were also deprived of all timekeeping devices, liberated from the restraints of schedules, and were free to sleep as often and as long as they wanted.

At first, they stuck to the typical modern schedule of seven or so hours a night. But by the end of the experiment, all subjects were averaging 10.3 hours of sleep out of every 24. Very chimp-like, if you'll notice.

The implications: Our bodies need much more sleep than we give them, as much as three hours more per day.

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