Posted by Ryan Hurd on May 4, 2008
Check out this amusing and poignant narrative about sleep deprivation and the American Dream as it is practiced in the deep South. The author concludes with a list of facts about sleep deprivation and dreams from the National Sleep Research Project.
Parents might find this statistic particularly interesting: A new baby typically results in 400-750 hours of lost sleep for parents in the first year!
As it turns out, the whole “8 hours of uninterrupted sleep” is not a human norm but actually an artifact of electric light and the rise of factory life.
According to anthropologists Carol Worthman and Melissa Melby, our way of sleeping is really unique. They write,
“Specifically, patterns of solitary sleep on heavily cushioned substrates, consolidated in a single daily time block, and housed in roofed and solidly walled space, contrast with the variety of sleep conditions among traditional societies. These conditions include multiple and multi-age sleeping partners; frequent proximity of animals; embeddedness of sleep in ongoing social interaction; fluid bedtimes and wake times; use of nighttime for ritual, sociality, and information exchange; and relatively exposed sleeping locations that require fire maintenance and sustained vigilance” (p. 71)
In comparison, the Western mode of sleep sounds really boring. Limited sleeping partners, prescribed bedtimes, monolithic hours in bed, and no donkeys nearby. That’s probably why Worthman calls our sleep habits the “Lay down and die” method. Except now, more and more people aren’t even getting their eight hours, making us the grumpiest civilization in history.
Well, here’s a prescription that Carol Worthman reports happens all around the globe: the afternoon siesta. So, don’t grab a Red Bull; take a nap instead! You”re in good company.
Worthman, C.M. and Melby, M. (2002). Toward a comparative developmental ecology of human sleep. In Carskadon, M.A. (Ed.) Adolescent Sleep Patterns: Biological, Social, and Psychological Influences, pp. 69-117. New York: Cambridge University Press.