Sleep function: an evolutionary perspective.

TitleSleep function: an evolutionary perspective.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsSiegel JM
JournalLancet Neurol
Date Published2022 10
KeywordsAnimals, Female, Humans, Mammals, Placenta, Pregnancy, Prospective Studies, Sleep, Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders

Prospective epidemiological studies in industrial societies indicate that 7 h of sleep per night in people aged 18 years or older is optimum, with higher and lower amounts of sleep predicting a shorter lifespan. Humans living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle (eg, tribal groups) sleep for 6-8 h per night, with the longest sleep durations in winter. The prevalence of insomnia in hunter-gatherer populations is low (around 2%) compared with the prevalence of insomnia in industrial societies (around 10-30%). Sleep deprivation studies, which are done to gain insights into sleep function, are often confounded by the effects of stress. Consideration of the duration of spontaneous daily sleep across species of mammals, which ranges from 2 h to 20 h, can provide important insights into sleep function without the stress of deprivation. Sleep duration is not related to brain size or cognitive ability. Rather, sleep duration across species is associated with their ecological niche and feeding requirements, indicating a role for wake-sleep balance in food acquisition and energy conservation. Brain temperature drops from waking levels during non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep and rises during REM sleep. Average daily REM sleep time of homeotherm orders is negatively correlated with average body and brain temperature, with the largest amount of REM sleep in egg laying (monotreme) mammals, moderate amounts in pouched (marsupial) mammals, lower amounts in placental mammals, and the lowest amounts in birds. REM sleep might, therefore, have a key role in the regulation of temperature and metabolism of the brain during sleep and in the facilitation of alert awakening.

Alternate JournalLancet Neurol
PubMed ID36115365