Professor Russell Foster explains how society, genes and light all interact to generate individual sleep patternsTake the sleep survey of Germans and Britons that will feature in a presentation at this year's Cheltenham Science FestivalSociety plays an enormous role in shaping our attitudes towards sleep and this affects how much sleep we get. Sleep, in turn, has a major impact upon society, influencing childhood learning and development, affecting workplace safety and efficiency, and even risk-taking behaviour.Sleepiness and sleep disorders cost the economy billions of pounds each year in days off work, lost time, inefficiency and accidents, yet the machismo associated with short sleep and long work hours is pervasive. Society glorifies "driven" individuals who succeed on apparently little sleep, whereas those who prioritise sleep are viewed as weak and not having the "right stuff". Some professions even demand excessive sleep deprivation as part of the job or a "rite of...
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