Researchers from Duke University have published a paper in the journal Evolutionary Anthropology. They scoured the scientific literature and compiled a database of sleeping patterns across hundreds of mammals including 21 species of primates — from baboons and lemurs to orangutans, chimpanzees and people. They then used statistical techniques to account for each species’ position in the primate family tree. Their findings imply that we humans sleep less and more efficiently than our fellow mammals and primates.


Humans are short sleepers, where we average 7 hours a night, other primate species, such as southern pig-tailed macaques and gray mouse lemurs, need as many as 14 to 17 hours. Additionally, our sleep tends to be more efficient. We spend a smaller proportion of time in light stages of sleep, and more of our sleep time in deeper stages of sleep. Our REM stages make up for 25% of our overall sleep but in primates such as mouse lemurs, mongoose lemurs and African green monkeys, REM sleep barely climbs above 5%.

Full text can be found here… “Sleep intensity and the evolution of human cognition,” Samson, D. and C. Nunn. Evolutionary Anthropology, December 2015. DOI: 10.1002/evan.21464

5 thoughts on “Humans Sleep More Efficiently Compared To Other Primates

  1. Seven hours?! I cannot believe that. I’ve always needed to sleep a lot more: 9-10, sometimes even more, less than 8 and I’m between dying and killing (tired and upset). Even now that I’m growing old (certainly for chimp standards) I still sleep a lot, although there are periods of restlessness in which I can only sleep so much.

    Enough with my personal case: what ages are those where the researchers have measured “7 hours”? I ask because I’ve read that young people need to sleep some 9 hours and usually take those hours to the morning, while older people sleep less and go to bed earlier, something that is often cause of domestic friction or even serious conflict. Is that a willing timing or forced by external factors like work schedule or experimental setting stress?

      1. Since young? There’s a small fraction of people who seem to sleep very little. I once met a girl who slept maybe 3-5 hours (I don’t remember exactly) and it seems that Napoleon slept only 4. But AFAIK the average is much larger and also varies significantly between teens and other young people, who need to sleep more usually, mature adults and the elderly.

        Anyhow that’s how averages work, I guess: our average would be close to 7 hours, but neither of us is even close to that figure.

  2. Early Humans flipped their ape bowl nests over, weaving secure dome huts on dry ground, originally simple round shields, and were able to sleep like tortoises undisturbed by flying biting mosquitoes, thus losing the ape’s fur coat and light sleep habits of those exposed to predators and parasites.

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