By Charles Q. Choi
Although it might seem that the glowing lights from smartphones and other trappings of modern life reduce people’s ability to get a decent amount of shut-eye, scientists now suggest that people do not get any less sleep today than they did in prehistoric times.
The researchers looked at people living in three hunter-gatherer societies in rural parts of Africa and South America. Investigations showed that these traditional peoples slept slightly less than 6.5 hours a night on average. In comparison, people in industrial societies usually average seven to eight hours per night.
“We find that contrary to much conventional wisdom, it is very likely that we do not sleep less than our distant ancestors,” said the study’s senior author, Jerome Siegel, a sleep researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles.
However, the researchers also found that insomnia may have been more rare in ancient times than it is now. This finding suggests that looking to the past could lead to new ways of treating insomnia, which afflicts more than 20 percent of people in the United States at some point during their lives, the investigators added.
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