ABC Science news: The town mouse and the country mouse

This week on ABC Radio Melbourne 774 I talked with Jacinta and Sami about how much we need and how we can make up for falling short. We also discussed how cities affect the size of creepy crawly creatures and what that means for the health of ecosystems.

Listen from 1:03:25 at [link expired].

How much sleep do you get per night? Researchers have indicated that those who manage an average of 5 hours or less have a 65% higher risk of death compared to those who sleep for 6 or 7 hours.

But, in good news coming out of Sweden, that risk could be completely reversed by a weekend sleep in.

This finding goes against previous thinking, that we can’t ‘bank’ sleep, however previous research has largely only looked at weekdays and failed to take into account weekend sleeping patterns.

Of course, the best habit is still a consistent routine, of about 6 or 7 hours sleep per night, going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.

This study of 43,000 people over 13 years is the first of its kind so it will be interesting to see is the findings are reproduceable. But for now, this is an excellent reason to be a little bit lazy once a week.


Which is bigger, the country mouse or the town mouse? If I had to bet on it, I’d say it was the country mouse. That’s because new research out of Belgium shows that many creatures – including spiders, beetles and water fleas – that live in cities tend to be smaller than their country cousins.

The reason is that cities are warmer than the surrounding areas, due to urban heat island effects. This warmth speeds up metabolism, meaning that a big body is more costly to maintain in terms of energy.

While living with smaller spiders might seem like great news, the declining size of these creatures can have a big impact on the health and services ecosystems provide.

Urban water fleas for example, were found to be 44% smaller than country water fleas. But larger water fleas are more effective at cleaning water by filtering out algae and preventing toxic algal blooms.

Moving forward, this research can be used to inform the design of modern cities in a way that recognises and respects the role of nature in their success. By applying the principles of biophilic urbanism, we can aim to integrate nature and urban surroundings in a way that results in the health and wellbeing of people and the places they live in.

To learn more about the field of biophilic urbanism check out the work of some of my wonderful former colleagues A/Prof Cheryl DeshaDr Angela Reeve and Dr Omniya el Baghdadi.