Do Culture and Geography Play into Sleep Patterns?

sleeping-beautThe human animal is a complex and yet we are all made, mostly, the same way. For example, we all need food and water and oxygen for our cells to properly divide and multiply and replenish. Also, we all share sleep in common.

But just as culture and location dictates the type of food you eat, so do these things, apparently, influence sleep pattern and behaviors. Published in the May 6th issue of the journal Science Advances the new findings show “bedtime is more under the control of society, and wake time is more under the control of the [biological] clock,” as described by study co-author Olivia Walch.

This “biological clock,” of course, refers to the naturally regulated circadian rhythms which we have believed for decades to be the driving force behind human sleep schedules, influenced by our environment, seasons, daylight, etc.

The study observed sleep data of more than 8,000 people in 100 countries who used a smartphone app that can help travelers better adjust to new time zones. To operate this app, you must enter their typical sleep schedule in addition to the times when you might normally be exposed to sunlight. From this information, then, the app will suggest how to customize your schedule to adjust to light and darkness as you travel.

Tracking the data, then, the researchers found that people in Singapore and Japan (natives) naturally got the least amount of sleep, averaging about 7 hours and 24 minutes per night. Alternately, people in the Netherlands managed to get the most sleep, at 8 hours and 12 minutes a night.

While this difference may not seem like much, the researchers also noticed that Singapore and Japan are close to each other, regionally. Thus, they theorize that those who are culturally and geographically close might also share sleep habits. Similarly, they also found that age may have an association—middle-aged men tend to get the least amount of sleep.

These new findings remind that sleep is very important no matter who you are, what you do, or where you live. Walch warns that even getting 6 hours a sleep per night—which is at least an hour less than what is recommended—builds up what she calls a sleep debt. She says this, effectively, can take its toll on the body, arguing “it doesn’t take that many days of not getting enough sleep before you’re functionally drunk.”