Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Champion sleepers

The French are the champion sleepers of the industrialised world, according to figures from the OECD.

A study of lifestyles across developed countries shows how the amount of sleep varies sharply between cultures.

The French enjoy the most sleep, followed by the slumbering citizens of the United States. At the other end of the scale, the Koreans and Japanese sleep the least. The UK hovers somewhere in the middle, sleeping less than the Spanish or the Australians, but sleeping more than the Italians or the Germans.

Apart from feeling jealousy towards those relaxed French dreamers, it's also a lesson in how much sleep is driven by culture rather than nature. Given that we're all the same human species, it might be expected that sleep would be pretty constant between different countries.

After all, you'd expect cats in Korea and cats in Germany to sleep for the same average amount of time each day, regardless of the passports of their owners. But with humans, there are big national differences, with more than a hour a day in the gap between the French and the Koreans.

Over the course of a year, that means that the French are asleep for a full 15 days more than the Koreans. Think of that, missing out on a full 15 days of uninterrupted sleep.

It shows how much sleep, that glorious natural instinct, can be altered by the pressures of human society.

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