Rural Populations Sleep and Wake with the SunWhat is the best time of morning to get out of bed? Everyone has an opinion, but for people who live in more rural areas, preferences tend to coincide with when the sun rises. A study from the University of Surrey and the University of São Paulo found that people in a rural town in Brazil were more likely to prefer sleeping and waking closer to when the sun sets and rises than those in metropolitan areas. The findings may help researchers understand the relationship between sleep schedules and overall health.

The researchers surveyed the population of Baependi, a rural town in south-eastern Brazil. They surveyed residents who lived in town and in the surrounding rural area. The researchers asked residents what time they would prefer to go to sleep and wake up on a day when they were completely free to plan their schedules. For comparison, the researchers also asked this question of residents in a major metropolitan area: London.

People living in rural areas are more likely to follow a sleep/wake schedule that matches the sun’s setting and rising. Baependi town residents reported their ideal wake time was 7:15 AM and their ideal sleep time was 10:20 PM. Rural residents of Baependi reported their ideal wake time was 6:30 AM and their ideal sleep time was 9:20 PM. The difference between these two groups may be from the influence of artificial lighting and working outdoors.

In contrast, residents of London reported an ideal wake time of 8:30 AM and an ideal sleep time of 11:15 PM.

The researchers report that, “Even though people in Baependi have access to electricity and television, their daily rhythms are much closer to those of the previous generations. Studying this population is like being able to look back at past generations through a pair of binoculars and provide an insight into the benefit this natural sleep pattern may be having on their health.”

The University of São Paulo is currently studying the health outcomes of the Baependi population, which could lead to a deeper understanding of how a solar-linked schedule impacts sleep duration and health.

This research is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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