Although we are constantly complaining about not getting enough sleep it seems that humans are better at sleeping than other mammals.
- Humans need about 7 to 9 hours of sleep
- Humans spend more time in REM sleep
- Other primates only get 5 percent of ‘deep’ sleep
As babies, we sure sleep a lot. That’s pretty much all we do, besides eating. When we get a bit older and discover there are so many interesting things to do and play with, sleeping doesn’t seem so appealing anymore and our parents are having a hard time trying to get us to go to bed. And, of course, taking a nap after lunch is out of the question.
However, as adults we long for the time when we had so much time to sleep and didn’t take advantage of it. We now have to get up early to go to work and with everything there is to do on a daily basis, we usually end up going to bed a lot later than we’ve planned.
Obviously going to bed late and getting up early means less time spent sleeping. But although many of us hate mornings, we somehow end up being rested enough to function well during the whole day.
As we said, kids need more sleep but adults older than 18, need about 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. This is yet another thing that differentiates us from our fellow primates. According to evolution, humans are the successors of primates, or in other words, different species of monkeys.
Our predecessors need a lot more sleep than we do. The National Sleep Foundation estimated that primate need around 14 to 17 hours per night, which is approximately 7 to 10 hours more than humans need. Of course, these estimates come after researchers conducted a study on 21 species of primates.
It looks like the reason behind us needing less sleep is that our sleep is simply more efficient. The key is that a bigger part of our sleep is deeper which makes us feel rested when we wake up. About 25 percent of the time we spend sleeping is in REM. REM is rapid eye movement, which is also connected to dreaming and represents the deepest stage of sleep. Our ‘cousins’ can only spend about 5 percent of their sleeping time in REM.
So, we basically
spend less time sleeping better while other primates spend more time but they sleep worse. The reason for this difference is purely evolutionary. Humans have turned from sleeping in trees to sleeping on the ground and be able to have more comfort and be less afraid of predators, which made them sleep deeper, without worries.