File photo: British tourists are heading to the sunloungers earlier than ever to beat rival holidaymakers for the best spots. Picture: Nonhlanhla Kambule

Many a British holidaymaker has rubbed the sleep from their eyes to gaze in bewilderment at the rows of sunloungers requisitioned long before breakfast.

Now research may have solved the mystery of how German tourists always get their towels there first.

According to a major study of sleeping habits, they spend less time asleep – and get out of bed more quickly when the alarm goes.

While Britons sleep for an average of seven hours and 21 minutes each night, our counterparts in Germany get by with eight minutes fewer. And while we take advantage of the snooze button to get an average of 20 more minutes in bed, they are up and about after just 15.

Professor Russell Foster, a neuroscientist at Oxford University, looked at the sleeping habits of more than 10,000 participants from both countries.

He said his findings may be down to the fact that Germans begin to work earlier.

They usually get to the office at 8.20am, while we are typically at our desks by 8.50am.

But while our later starts might cost us a comfortable poolside lounger, there is good news too.

Our sleeping habits are more in tune with our natural body clock, according to Professor Till Roenneberg, head of the Munich Centre for Chronobiology, who contributed to the study.

He said that we have lower levels of “social jetlag” – the difference between our actual sleeping habits and our natural sleep cycle – because our habits ‘”etter suit our sleep needs”. Professor Foster said: “The fact Britons are sleeping more and have less social jetlag would promote more creativity. In terms of quality wake time at work, this is good news.”

And without casting aspersions on the ability of the Germans to enjoy a joke, sleeping longer may also account for the famous British sense of humour.

Professor Foster said: “Sleeping longer is known to help us with memory but also language skills and creativity. That includes our sense of humour – our ability to look at the world and laugh is very much influenced by sleep.” - Daily Mail