Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Insomnia is awful, but scientists have revealed the amazing reason why you have it

woman sleep.jpg

As anyone who has ever had trouble sleeping will know, there is nothing worse than a bad night of kip.

From spending hours tossing and turning with increasing levels of rage, to downing espressos the next day in an attempt to stay awake, insomnia is a particular form of torture.

However, it turns out that having trouble sleeping might actually be an evolutionary advantage, with one group of scientists arguing that insomnia is a survival tool inherited from our ancestors.

A bad night's sleep can have a knock-on effect for the following day

A bad night's sleep can have a knock-on effect for the following day

The scientists reached this conclusion while studying a tribe of modern hunter-gatherers living in Tanzania, with one of the most surprising findings from their research being that the tribe members rarely slept at the same time.

In fact, the researchers only recorded 18 minutes when all 33 members of the tribe were sleeping simultaneously.


Read more: 10 proven ways to get a great night's sleep


The advantage of this, the scientists concluded, was that the tribe would always have one member who was awake and on the lookout for danger, ensuring the safety of the group at all times.

Could a bad night of sleep be an evolutionary advantage?

Could a bad night of sleep be an evolutionary advantage?

The researchers, from the Duke University in South Carolina, believe their findings could also explain why our quality of sleep typically gets worse as we get older.

“The idea that there's a benefit to living with grandparents has been around for a while, but this study extends that idea to vigilance during nighttime sleep,” Dr David Samson, co-author of the study, told the Evening Standard.

And the researchers believe their study shows the evolutionary advantage of not getting enough sleep.

“A lot of older people go to doctors complaining that they wake up early and can’t get back to sleep,” Charlie Nunn, another co-author  of the study, added. 

“But maybe there’s nothing wrong with them. Maybe some of the medical issues we have today could be explained not as disorders, but as a relic of an evolutionary past in which they were beneficial.”

So next time you find yourself counting sheep in the early hours, take comfort in the fact your body probably knows what it’s doing.

Images: iStock

Related

sleep heatwave.jpg

Why a hot drink before bed is the key to sleeping in a heatwave

amanda seyfried.jpg

Amanda Seyfried opens up about her debilitating panic attacks

iStock-515833680.jpg

Having a lie-in on the weekend can make you healthier and smarter

More

Thought-provoking illustrations reveal hidden secrets of strangers

The artist was met with “unexpected confessions”

by Sarah Biddlecombe
22 Aug 2017

The most annoying Tube habits, as ranked by irritated Londoners

“Could you move down, please?”

by Amy Swales
22 Aug 2017

These are the main reasons relationships end, according to a new study

...and the reasons couples stay together

by Megan Murray
22 Aug 2017

The new Great British Bake Off might be OK after all

The first episode has not bombed, we repeat: it has not bombed

by Amy Swales
22 Aug 2017

Woman claims she was fired for leaking during a heavy period at work

“Every woman dreads getting period symptoms when they're not expecting them, but I never thought I could be fired for it.”

by Sarah Biddlecombe
22 Aug 2017

Women football fans forced to show bras while being searched at match

Add this to your list of ‘things that are definitely not OK’

by Moya Crockett
22 Aug 2017

This prosecco advent calendar will have you waving goodbye to summer

We're suddenly very excited about Christmas

by Megan Murray
22 Aug 2017

Heartfelt letter on coping with an anxious partner goes viral

“Anxiety isn't a one size fits all, it isn't consistent and it isn't always easy to tell”

by Sarah Biddlecombe
22 Aug 2017

Why India banning instant divorce is a major victory for women

India’s Supreme Court has ruled against triple talaq, which allowed Muslim men to instantly divorce their wives.

by Moya Crockett
22 Aug 2017

Jennifer Aniston really isn’t happy about *that* Friends fan theory

She’s decided to put an end to the rumours, once and for all

by Kayleigh Dray
22 Aug 2017