Sleep is an essential part of life – without rest, the body cannot function. This is applicable to all mammal life-forms specifically, but particularly when it comes to human health. Sleep is not only critical to basic human health, but also aids all bodily as well as cognitive functionality. There is a reason why our brain functions better when we’ve had enough sleep, we can focus more, process faster and perform better. Rest, especially sleep, is also a crucial part of our healing process as well. That’s why when we are sick, one of the first recommendations is sleep. However, true beneficial sleep is known as deep sleep. During the deep sleep phase, our body releases important hormones that assist in the body’s growth processes as well as assists us in boosting our all-important immune system.

There are a number of factors that affect our sleep; some are disorder-based such as insomnia, anxiety and depression. However more often than not, we are affected by the environment around us. This also includes the lifestyle we choose to lead, such as alcohol, smoking, drugs medications and certain foods also have a significant impact on the quality of our sleep. Even the cities and countries that we live in can play a role in determining how much sleep specific populations get. Although the data itself hasn’t always been expansive in this area, historically American and European populations sleep more than East Asian countries, however that doesn’t account for the quality of the sleep – longer doesn’t necessarily equate to better. This also begs the question as to whether a country and its inherent characteristics and environmental factors can play a role in determining what kind of sleep its population has and whether or not this leads to “night owls or early birds”.

Ideally, eight hours of sleep a night is what most people strive for, but very few realistically achieve. Looking at the 2023 statistics based on a study conducted on over 30,000 people across 11 countries through the use of surveys and smart watches, the study was able to outline some of the countries that had the longest average sleep duration versus the lowest. Based on the study, Finland topped the charts with the longest sleep time of eight hours and one minute a night, followed by France at seven hours and 45 minutes a night, and then very closely by the UK with one minute less. The United States sits slightly lower on the list at seven hours and thirty-four minutes. Japan’s population on the converse, functions on an average of six hours and fifty-one minutes of sleep a day, which is interesting considering how successful and effective its working population is. South Africa sadly also sits on the wrong end of the list with a daily average of between six hours and twenty-five minutes to six hours thirty minutes. This is well below the recommended amount of sleep per day. This is a significant turnaround from earlier studies done in 2021 that ranked SA as some of the ‘sleepiest citizens’. SA is heading towards a sleep deprived population, and that is certainly something to try not lose even more sleep over.