Best of 2017 // #72: Early Bird vs Night Owl


If you are a night owl or early bird, you can thank human evolution for your problems.  The staggering of sleep cycles amongst different members of our species may have helped us stay alive in the past.
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Having different sleep cycles amongst the different members of a tribe or group of humans has had the ability to protect everyone in the tribe from predators around the clock.  This theory, known as Sentinel Hypothesis, was first proposed in the 1960s, and has since been demonstrated in birds and small rodents.

In July’s Proceedings of the Royal Society B, researchers described the first example of evidence for this theory in humans.  The team used wrist monitors to track the sleep of 33 participants from Tanzania’s Hadza people.  The Hadza people are a hunter/gatherer people, whose lifestyle and environment is similar to that of early humans.

The study found that, after analyzing 220 hours of data, there were only 18 1-minute increments in which all the people were soundly asleep.  Age has the strongest influence; participants aged 50 and older were more like to be early birds than those 30 and under.

“We’re incredibly different from our ancestors in so many ways…yet understanding that past can help us understand our behaviour and physiology today”
-Charles Nunn, Evolutionary Anthropologist, Duke University

There’s more stories from 2017.  Check out the Best of 2017 series here

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