Sleep is an essential thing for human beings. You've been told that since you were old enough to understand spoken words. But when and how did people begin to sleep? What has determined how much sleep we need?
For people that believe in evolution, a thought arose as to why humans need fewer hours of sleep than their animal counterparts. It seems that people need less sleep than animals do. After all, you don't see humans hibernating during the winter, do you?
Why Humans Sleep
You know why you sleep, right? If you don't get enough sleep you get grouchy, you find it hard to keep your eyes open, and sometimes you even get twitchy. You sleep because you feel like you need it. It refreshes your mind and gives you the energy you need in order to make it through a day of work, cooking, cleaning, and raising your children.
When you're a kid you're told to go to bed. You are raised to understand that you need to have a certain amount of sleep each night for your health.
Even as an adult you've probably read studies on sleep that tell you that if you don't get enough it'll make you crazy or make you sick. In fact, there's still a lot that people don't know about sleep, like whether or not people really do need it or not. Then again, studies on people and animals have shown that skipping sleep for too long can be detrimental to your health.
Just like the studies that say eggs are bad for you and the others that say eggs are good for you, all you can really do is what seems to work for you. If not getting sleep every night makes you irritable or gives you feelings of being under the weather, get some sleep. If you feel like you can pull an all-niter a couple nights in a row, that's your prerogative.
How Long Humans Sleep
How much sleep you need really depends on what stage in life you're at. Babies get the most sleep out of humans, while adults and the elderly get the least. It seems that the older you get the less sleep you need.
The amount of sleep a human baby gets ties in more with the amount of sleep apes and monkeys get. If humans evolved from them does that mean people should continue to sleep that many hours of the day?
Consider how you feel after a good night's sleep as compared to a night of little and broken sleep. For most people, a good night's sleep will have you waking up refreshed and happy. Then again, some people feel more refreshed after having less than the average amount of sleep.
How Long Animals Sleep
Not all animals sleep for half the day, but some do. With apes being the closest to humans of all the animals, it makes sense to look at their sleep patterns to understand our own. Chimpanzees, part of the ape family, need almost two-hours more sleep on average than an adult human.
However, do animals get more sleep because they also live more active lives when they are awake?
Early Man and Sleep Patterns
It seems that to get the best look at the evolution of sleep in humans you'd want to look at the first humans. How long did cavemen sleep? They too lived different lives than the humans of today do. Humans now are more sedentary. They don't need as much sleep or as much energy for their desk jobs. They don't need to hunt and forage in order to feed themselves and their families.
There was a study done that showed that ancient man may not have gotten more sleep than modern man. By studying some groups in remote areas that don't have the technologies most people do, scientists found that these people got less sleep than most. They didn't go to bed right when it got dark out, staying up for a few more hours after dusk. They also awoke in the predawn hours.
With all of this info, it seems like there's still not much of a way to figure out exactly how sleep evolved in humans. Maybe ancient man did sleep less, he had more work to do to keep a roof over his head and food in his belly. Maybe now you get more sleep than you really need, or maybe it's less. As long as you wake up each morning you must be doing something right.