You’ve heard that it's best to get around 8 hours of sleep. But does sleeping longer work if you have a full time job, go to university, or raise a family. For many of us, 8 hours of sleep is a luxury reserved for those holiday weekends when we can actually sleep in.
Most people believe reducing sleep to a minimum is efficient and harmless.
But is sleeping less actually good for you?
There is a lot evidence showing detrimental effects on the body with reduced sleep, and late bedtime hours.
But on the other hand, there is so much to do in life. And, sometimes the only way to get it all done is to stay up late.
Here are some interesting facts that may just help you choose to go to bed earlier.
Everyone I meet is in some way trying to lose a few pounds. In industrialized countries, sleep reduction is very common, we try to squeeze as much as we can into the day. But it's becoming recognized as a contributing factor to obesity and diabetes.
Sleep plays a role in the regulation of glucose and hormones related to appetite. Without proper sleep the body will experience more blood sugar issues, and appetite will be greater. Sleeping less causes us to eat more. For good metabolic health, good sleep is imperative.
Slow wave sleep (SWS) is the most restorative sleep stage. It is associated with decreased heart rate, blood pressure, sympathetic nervous activity, and glucose used by the brain. Plus during SWS sleep, the anabolic growth hormone that builds muscle is released, while the stress hormone cortisol is inhibited.
The link between sleep loss and increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes is possibly related to the effect sleep loss has on hormones. If the hormones are not present to control appetite, then hunger will increase. This can happen when people are sleep restricted.
Sleep restriction increased total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in women. Short sleep duration has been found to be associated with higher total cholesterol and lower HDL (the good one). Sleep deprivation could increase cholesterol by increasing appetite and consumption of saturated fats, decreasing motivation for physical activity, and increasing stress.
In men testosterone is a sex hormone that plays important roles in the body. It's thought to regulate sex drive (libido), bone mass, fat distribution, muscle mass and strength, and the production of red blood cells and sperm. As men age, testosterone levels decrease by 1% to 2% per year.
But men who went under 1 week of sleep restriction of 5 hours per night had a decrease of 10% to 15% of testosterone. Symptoms and signs of testosterone deficiency include low energy, reduced libido, poor concentration, and increased sleepiness, all of which may be produced by sleep deprivation.
They tested a group of adolescents with the following sleep-wake patterns: Early-bed/Early-rise; Early-bed/Late-rise; Late-bed/Early-rise; Late-bed/Late-rise. Here's what happened:
- Adolescents in the Late-bed/Late-rise category experienced 48 minutes per day more screen time (electronic devices)
- 27 minutes less moderate-to-vigorous physical activity
They were also:
- 1.47 times more likely to be overweight or obese
- 1.77 times more likely to have low moderate-to-vigorous physical activity
- 2.92 times more likely to have high screen time.
Students sleeping late were more likely to get less daily sleep, wake-up later, require multiple wake up reminders in the morning, fall asleep in a morning class and feel tired during the day. They were also 2.42 times less likely to feel that they got adequate sleep nor feeling refreshed in the morning.
Homework and TV shows were the more frequent reasons of late bedtimes among the late-sleepers.
Let’s not forget those that high stress jobs, careers, or lives so many have. This group of people often takes their stress into the evening, and bed. This makes them go to bed later without the ability to sleep longer.
How about sleeping less and catching up. A group of people were sleep restricted to 5 hours a night. They also were allowed a daily nap to catch up. It was found that a 10-minute nap produced immediate improvements in outcomes (including sleepiness, fatigue, vigor, and cognitive performance). Some of the benefits maintained for as long as 155 minutes.
This one makes sense. When you don't sleep you are more tired, and that will help you sleep better. This restricted sleep study tested a group of children for 6 days. They had 3 days of regular sleep, and then 3 days of extended or restricted sleep by 1 hour. The one benefit they saw was improved sleep quality, although they slept less.
This study showed that sleeping greater than 8 hours per night is associated with increased mortality. The most recent American Cancer Society data of 1.1 million respondents showed that sleeping longer than 7.5 hours was associated with approximately 5% of the total mortality of the sample.
Even though it hasn’t been proven yet, there is evidence that mild sleep restriction would decrease mortality in long sleepers. Also, chronic sleep restriction is perhaps the most effective treatment for primary insomnia.
In addition to its effects on cognitive function, sleep loss affects the immune and inflammatory systems. One night of recovery sleep does not allow full recovery of these systems. The immune and inflammatory responses to chronic sleep restriction suggest that chronic exposure to reduced sleep of less than 6 hours a day, and insufficient time for recovery sleep could have gradual deleterious effects, over years, on cardiovascular health.
A lack of sleep is not a healthy addition to any lifestyle, rather quite the opposite. If you have a choice - choose sleeping longer.
Here is a quick summary of the points of not getting adequate rest:
A good night of sleep is imperative for good health. It must become a new priority so as to perform the best throughout the day. Start with a new bed-time routine and ease into a better nights rest.
Study : Sleep and Metabolic Function
Study : Sleep duration or bedtime
Study : Long sleep and mortality
Study : Sleep restriction and recovery
Is sleep really that important? Coffee and other stimulants do a good job at keeping us up, so what’s the scoop on sleep. Is it that important? Do you really need bedtime routines?
It turns out that good sleep goes beyond just beating fatigue. It actually plays a big role in our mental, and physical health. It either helps or hinders in the quality of your life.
It has been estimated that upwards of 70 million people in the US are affected with a sleep disorder. All said, there are dozens of sleep disorders. They range from insomnia (difficulty falling asleep), all the way to breathing and night time movement disorders. Unfortunately, they affect both young and old.
If I had to rank them all, I would put personal safety on top of the list. The fact is that you are less safe when you don’t have proper sleep.
According to Circadian, sleep deprivation decreases personal communication, performance, mood, while increasing distractions, driving impairments, errors, and memory.
For example, have you ever driven long hours on a winding road when suddenly drowsiness falls upon you. In that moment it’s nearly impossible to focus on the road ahead. You instantly become a tired and distracted driver. Suddenly your concentration drops, you are more prone to driving errors, and you become careless, and less safe on the road.
Getting a good nights rest using bedtime routines should be your 1st priority. It will help you be your safest, and best each day.
But it gets worse. It turns out that ongoing sleep deficiency can also put you at risk for chronic health effects. These health effects can increase the risk of hypertension (stress), diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, and stroke.
So what do you think now? Is sleep really that important?
During the day we make compromises with our time. Distractions and unplanned events quickly change our day. That lunch date with a friend suddenly gets canceled due to a sudden road closure. Or you discover the washing machine stuck on it’s last cycle with a huge tub of hot water that won’t drain. Once again you have to cancel your plans, and deal with this new distraction.
We have to make compromises because distractions and unplanned events change our plans.
Without bedtime routines, those distractions can cut into your sleep.
Remember that call to the utility company to fix that billing error. It should have lasted 10 minutes but it turned into a 1 1/2 hour nightmare. In turn, your bed time suddenly was 1 1/2 hours later.
Once again new compromises end up putting you in bed later and later.
That is how it starts. Even though sleep is vitally important, the priority of going to bed on time gets lowered each time a new event or distraction occurs.
What would happen if someone was monitoring your bedtime each night? Would you pay more attention to it? Would you suddenly be more diligent about the time your retire each evening?
Children aren’t very good at monitoring their time. Bedtime for them is something they resist each and every day. They don’t want the day to end. But a regular and firm assertion by a parent each night keeps them on schedule. This sends them to bed on time because bedtime routines work.
But as adults no one tells us to go to bed. It’s up to us. This is the real problem. We let ourselves off the hook. There is no one watching. No one insisting that we go to bed on time. Therefore we tend to stretch the limits. At night we falsely believe there is no real consequence to bed late.
But there is a real consequence! When you don’t go to bed at a consistent time, you wake up more groggy and tired. Worse, you may experience broken sleep throughout the night adding further stress in your life.
This pattern may create an ongoing sleep disorder. Which leads to being more tired and more error prone during the day. The other problem you may encounter is the lack of focus. Without maximum focus, everything becomes that much harder to complete.
All of this because you didn’t go to bed on time.
There was a study of 101 US Navy members over an 8 month tour of duty. Each day, their stress load and quality of sleep was monitored.
It turns out that there was a direct relationship between the daily stress they experienced and the quality of their sleep at night.
When stress was present in the day, it carried over into the night. Repeated and ongoing daily stress is a direct cause for sleep disorders at night.
Another study showed that 39 couples who went to bed angry with each other. They found it directly affected the quality of their sleep. Greater quarreling was associated with subsequent sleep disruptions.
It feels great to climb into bed. There is nothing like that cozy, warm feeling when you are feeling down, sick, or finishing a long day.
But remember, the daily stress you experienced all day long carries on well into the night.
You need to stop that transfer by using a “firewall” between the day and night.
You can’t just climb into bed. You need to break the day up, and put it behind you. You need to clear your head, relax, let-go and enter sleep as peacefully as you can.
Changing your bedtime routine can help separate the two. By using a short time period to separate the day and night, you can leave some of the stress behind. This “timeout” can help you let go of the daily stress you experienced. This will help carry less of it into your sleep.
The more stress you can let go before bed, the better chance you have at a good nights sleep.
Remember, what you experience in the day will carry into the night.
Creating a new bedtime routine will take time, but you must start somewhere.
The best place to start is to change one small thing every week, and practice consistency daily.
It may sound funny to hear this. But the best and most effective thing you can do to bring order to your night time routine is to “make your bed” in the morning.
That is the first step.
When you wake in the morning, signal to yourself that the night has ended, and the day has begun.
What is the best way to do that - by making your bed.
Making your bed makes it clear that they bed is now off-limits. It is only to be used at night. This will create a better separation from your day and your night. Remember, you are trying to leave the stress of the day, behind before you enter sleep.
First thing in the morning, while your bed is still warm - make your bed! Then move on through your day. Do not get into bed in the daytime. If you need to nap, use a couch or an an easy chair.
Make it clear to yourself that the bed is only used at night, for sleep.
Do this everyday, and be consistent about it.
After you have been consistent for one week, move on to the next step below.
Now that your bed has been made in the morning. The 1st step of your bedtime routine is to learn how to turn back the covers and prepare for sleep.
Some of the finer hotels I have been to have a “turn down service”. Each evening the service staff enter the room to turn down the bed.
They pull back the covers slightly, fluff the pillows, close the shades, and put a treat on the pillow.
You can do the same thing at home. Starting with your own turn down service. This will help you separate the day and the night.
1. It all starts with making your bed every morning
2. In the evening before bed, close the shades and curtains to darken your room
3. Pull back the sheets on each side to make a 30 degree fold at the corner of the bed
4. Fluff your pillow
5. Put a treat on your pillow which can be a non-food item such as a flower, a picture, an affirmation on decorative paper, or an ornament
6. Go and brush your teeth, wash your face, and change into your sleeping attire.
7. When you return give thanks for the “hotel style turn down”, for the day you had, and for the refreshing sleep you are about to enjoy
8. Climb into bed and let yourself drift off
Start by being consistent with making your bed in the morning, and your turn down service at night. Once you get the hang of it, add something new to your bedtime routine such as relaxing music, or peaceful nature sounds set to a timer. This will help you fall asleep easier.
Sleep deprivation is responsible for mood changes, errors, lack of focus and reduced memory. Start to reverse all of these problems by fixing the source.
Practice your bedtime routine each day to start reinforcing the importance of good sleep.
The better you sleep, the better you will feel and the happier you will be.
I like to lay on my bed when I read, or do some work on the computer. It’s a warm and comfortable place. But what happens is all those memories I create when I work there get associated to the bed.
When I started to make my bed each day and only use the bed for sleep. I was able to keep a better separation between my daily work activities, and my sleep.
This helps me sleep deeper, with far less “early morning wake-ups” dreaming about things I can't change.