Question 1: Bruce Bower, in his article Slumber’s Unexplored Landscape: People in traditional societies sleep in eye-opening ways, explains sleep patterns through experiences from different anthropologists from around the nation to places around the globe. He states that “anthropologists have rarely scrutinized the sleep patterns and practices of different cultures” and that “. . . on- Western groups may mold sleep’s biology. ” (Bower, 1999) Bower asserts that it is important that natural sleep habits must be studied rather than the “modern Western world” and that sleep studies have been significantly impaired by the lack of research in this area. He references work by an anthropologist by the name of Carol M. Worthman who found that people in different cultures have very different sleep patterns.
Different cultures affect sleep patterns in many ways such as “Ache foragers in Paraguay, Kung hunter-gathers in Africa, Swat Pathan herders in Pakistan, and Balinese farmers in Indonesia” (Bower, 1999) She found out that all of these areas had the same sleep patterns such as they all slept together to provide safety for the group and that they could “count on there being someone else up or easily awakened at all hours of the night to warn others of a threat or emergency.
(Bower, 1999) I found most interesting in this article was that when people don’t use “artificial light from dusk until dawn” people who use to sleep for a long period of time began to “sleep in two periods separated by an hour or two of quiet rest”; that this can occur naturally and is not necessarily a “sleep disorder” such as insomnia which is often diagnosed in our modern societies. (Bower, 1999) I agree with most of what is said in this article as my children climb in to my bed with us almost every night and to me it seems as if they sleep better when they are next to me.
I also remember my dreams vividly while waking up in the middle of the night verses trying to remember what they were in the morning. Question 2: As with anything your body is programmed to go to sleep at a certain time of day and wake up at a certain time of the day, whereas in other cultures will affect sleep patterns in people how they go about their daily lives such as ceremonies, dances in the middle of the night and other cultural activities. Culture definitely influences the way humans sleep.
For instance with me and my family, our children usually are in bed by 9pm every night and are usually up around 7am. One of them (most of the time both) is usually in our bed when we wake up in the morning. Modern technology affects sleep such as alarm clocks, lights in a room or types of work we have to be at certain times in the morning or very late at night. Question 3: From an ethnocentric angle, I considered not sleeping 8 hours a night not the normal thing to do.
That waking up to meditate wouldn’t be natural and would be breaking up my REM sleep. When you read about lengthy ceremonies people participate in where they must stay awake for days I pretty much considered that crazy. From the perspective of cultural relativism I can see how these habits would be normal and actually healthy. That this would be normal to different cultures depending on the lifestyles they lead. I guess there really is no right or wrong way to sleep.