It is widely thought that the availability of television, social media and artificial lighting is causing people to sacrifice sleep, resulting in less sleep in the modern world. Emerging research shows, however, that short nights are not a recent phenomenon, nor are they restricted to high-income countries like the United States. Evolutionary research reveals that natural selection has acted to reduce sleep duration along the human lineage, while research in traditional populations — including hunter gatherers — suggests that humans around the world appear to have better things to do than sleep. New research is also showing how these findings relate to health disparities, both within countries and at a global scale.
About Our Speaker
Charles Nunn is Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology and Global Health at Duke University, and Director of the Triangle Center for Evolutionary Medicine (TriCEM). Nunn uses evolutionary approaches to understand and improve human and animal health. He and his research group investigate the ecology and evolution of infectious disease, drivers of variation in sleep, and the links between ecology, evolution and global health. Nunn addresses these questions using phylogenetic methods, mathematical modeling, and through fieldwork in Madagascar, Kenya and other locations. He is the author of “Infectious Diseases of Primates: Behavior, Ecology and Evolution” and “The Comparative Approach in Evolutionary Anthropology and Biology.”