If you feel like you're not getting enough sleep, it might help you to rest a little easier knowing there are probably billions worse off than you. 

That's because most people in English-speaking parts of the world are getting more sleep than folks in Asia, Latin America, southern Europe and the Middle East. 

In fact young adults in Asia sleep as much as 44 minutes less each night, on average, than the rest of us. That's quite a significant margin, coming from a study of the sleeping patterns of 17,335 people wearing fitness trackers that measure their shuteye hours over a 14-day period.

The research comes from Flinders University and the University of Helsinki in collaboration with Finnish fitness tracker maker Polar.

The study found that how much people sleep appears to be related to both age and location, with big shifts in snoozing hours seen during adolescence into people's twenties. The amount people tend to sleep then stabilizes around thirty years old, a pattern seen throughout the world.

"Sleep duration ranged from 7:53 hrs at age 16 to 7:29 hrs at age 30. There were also clear differences between females and males throughout adolescence and young adulthood, with girls having longer sleep and earlier timed sleep," says sleep expert and Flinders Professor Michael Gradisar.

The full study was published online this month in Sleep MedicineIt found northern Europeans, Australians and their neighbors in Oceania slumber the longest, with North Americans also among the most well-rested.

"Young adults in Asia had the shortest sleep duration (6hr 30min), whereas those in Oceania (7hr 14min) and Europe, (7hr 7min) had the longest," Gradisar recounts. "Young adults in Central and Southern America and the Middle East also reported short sleep (6hr 40min)."

He says the legendary work and educational demands in Asian countries might explain the disparity.

"For example, when I was in Hong Kong last year speaking to colleagues, they informed me of Typhoon Mangkhut, which was one of the most destructive storms in the city's history. The very next day, workers were ordered to go back to work by a billionaire tycoon. My colleagues spoke of walking to work, stepping over fallen trees, and broken windows and paper in the streets. This is a city that doesn't rest - and part of a region that doesn't sleep much."

The study suggests that cultural factors could be another important factor in sleep duration for young people, along with things like genetics or health concerns.

Good news, though, if you're flying to Australia soon: It will probably be socially acceptable to knock off for several hours to deal with the jet lag.

Published on: Aug 12, 2019
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