Modern living has brought many benefits – but more sleep is not one of them, scientists have found.
Scientists studying two groups of hunter gatherers in the wilds of Argentina similar in all respects except one – one village has electricity and the other doesn’t.
They found that the village with electricity slept an hour less than the one without.
Electricity wasn’t the only factor that affected sleep: both villages slept longer in the winter months than in the summer – with the researchers suggesting there is a biological driver that makes us require more shut-eye in the colder, darker months.
Both villages were members of a group of people called the Toba which means ‘big forehead’ in another native Indian language, although they prefer to call themselves Qom or ‘the people.’
Researchers from the University of Washington gave bracelets that measured the amount of sleep the communities got in 2013.
Researchers from the University of Washington gave sleep tracking bracelets (pictured) to villagers in Argentina. One of the Toba/Qom communities has electricity and the other doesn’t
They gave the villagers wrist bracelets that measured how long they slept, and also asked them to keep a note of when they went to sleep, and if they had any naps in the day.
Just 31 miles apart, the group with electricity slept an hour less than their electricity-free counterparts who relied only on natural light.
The researchers found the shorter nights were mostly due to people having the option to turn on lights and go to bed later.
They found that the village with electricity slept an hour less than the one without. But both slept longer during the winter months than in the summer (depicted in these graphs)
The communities live just 31 miles (50km) apart in northeastern Argentina. The researchers believe the shorter nights were mostly due to people having the option to turn on lights and go to bed later
Horacio de la Iglesia, a University of Washington researcher said the study may show how our ancestors cut short their sleep when they first gained access to electricity.
‘In a way, this study presents a proxy of what happened to humanity as we moved from hunting and gathering to agriculture and eventually to our industrialised society.
‘All the effects we found are probably an underestimation of what we would see in highly industrialsied societies where our access to electricity has tremendously disrupted our sleep.’ De la Iglesia added that the difference between sleeping length in summer and winter showed that we cannot escape our biology.
He said: ‘We tend to think we’re isolated from seasonal effects even though we know this is the case for many animals.
‘I think it’s still embedded in our biology even when we do as much as we can to obscure that difference between summer and winter.’
The researchers next plan to measure the levels of melatonin, a hormone that affects sleep in the different communities for their next project, and also the effect the moon has on sleeping patterns.
The research is published in the Journal of Biological Rhythms.
It follows previous research that discovered a rural community in Brazil that still follows the natural sleep cycles of our ancestors – despite having access to the same technology as its urban neighbours.
The community was discovered in the small town of Baependi in south-eastern Brazil in the state of Minais Gerais.
Researchers from the University of Surrey and the University of São Paulo studied the population and asked them questions about their sleep habits and patterns.
The researchers (University of Washington biologist Horacio de la Iglesia is pictured) next plan to measure the levels of melatonin, a hormone that affects sleep in the different communities for their next project, and also study the effect the moon has on their sleeping patterns
‘In big cities, the availability of cheap electricity has brought us both artificial lighting and a multitude of other electronic devices that compete with us going to sleep at night,’ said lead author Dr Malcolm von Schantz from the University of Surrey.
‘As a result, most of us go to bed much later than our ancestors did, and, many of us are sleeping less.
‘Even though the people in Baependi have access to electricity and television, their daily rhythms are much closer to those of previous generations.
‘Studying this population is like being able to look back at past generations through a pair of binoculars and provide an insight into the benefit this natural pattern may be having on their health.’
HOW MOBILES AFFECT YOUR SLEEP
Scientists recently discovered that using a mobile phone or tablet are damaging their sleep.
This is because the blue glow emitted by the electronic devices can destroy the body’s natural rhythm.
During the two-week study, 12 participants read electronic books for four hours before bedtime. The experiment was then repeated with printed books.
The researchers found those reading on screens were less sleepy in the evening and took longer to fall asleep.
They had reduced levels of melatonin, a hormone which plays a role in inducing sleepiness.
And they took nearly ten minutes longer to fall asleep after reading an e-reader compared to reading a printed book.
They also had a lower amount of rapid eye movement sleep – a stage thought to be crucial because it is when memories are consolidated
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3134374/Can-t-sleep-home-s-ELECTRICITY-blame-Access-power-linked-losing-hour-s-shut-eye.html#ixzz3doA2gfBg
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