How we sleep survey, and what it doesn’t tell us

New global research shows that in southern Africa we wake up earlier than in most other parts of the world.

Because those of us nearer the equator don’t have long, light evenings and not much change in the time of sunrise and sunset throughout the seasons, we awake, on average, at around 6.a.m., the earliest in the 47 countries where sleep patterns of 2 million people were studied.

What the survey does not to take into account, though, is the countless millions of people in southern Africa who are up at 4.a.m or earlier to schlep to jobs by bicycle, on foot or by bus and kombi, if they are lucky enough to have jobs. Nor does it tell us about those who don’t sleep much, let alone restfully, because of their daily hardships and going to bed hungry. Or about those without electricity who go to bed at nightfall and rise before first light creeps over the horizon.

The study doesn’t delve into issues of poverty, economics or anthropology. The study has no input from the poor, evidently because it was compiled from global computer responses to a questionnaire. In the computerised world of the more well-to-do, restfulness of sleep varies nightly. The worries of Monday affect sleep on Sunday night, the most restful night is Wednesday, when midweek has been conquered and it’s downhill all the way to the weekend.

Columbians wake up at around 6.30 a.m, second to us, but go to bed around midnight, whereas southern Africans go to bed much earlier than the Columbians, other Latin Americans and Italians, Greeks and Spaniards, who eat much later in the evening and might have had a siesta in the afternoon. Affluent north Americans and Europeans of the north wake up around 8.a.m. on average.

Responses from the Islamic world were not a representative sample. Muslim sleep patterns vary with the mullahs’ electronically-amplified chants calling the faithful to morning prayers from the minarets of mosques from as early as 4.a.m

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