Why do we usually like to sleep?
Napoleon versus Einstein
Short and late sleepers
Napoleon Bonaparte and Albert Einstein are often stylized as extreme sleepers: Apparently Napoleon closed his eyes for a maximum of four hours per night, Albert Einstein twelve. Unfortunately, nowhere is it mentioned whether the pugnacious French general didn’t occasionally nod away blissfully at important appointments because of his chronic lack of sleep. What is certain, however, is that an average Central European - from a purely statistical point of view - needs around seven hours of sleep to go through the day relaxed. How many hours each individual really needs shouldn't be a question of statistics, but of personal well-being. Napoleon, known for his pithy sayings, at any rate, that is clear, walked with his often cited misconception that a man needs four, a woman five, a hollow head six hours, mighty on the wrong track.
Need for sleep as reflected in the season, gender and age
Our overzealous performance society likes to stamp late risers into disguised good-for-nothing. Whether we belong to the short or late sleeper is hardly a question of performance or will, but - similar to our “programming” as an early or late type - is genetically fixed. Whether gender also plays a role is scientifically controversial: According to some studies, women sleep longer than men under timer-free conditions in the sleep laboratory (9.8 vs. 8.4 hours). So far, however, science has not given an answer about the cause. What is certain, however, is that our need for sleep does not form a lifelong continuum: we normally crave more sleep in winter than in summer. People who live in regions with pronounced seasonal changes sleep up to two hours longer in winter. On top of that, stress and illnesses influence our sleep behavior. And also the age: Babies need 16 to 18 hours of sleep every day. Many a senior just under six.
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