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A wake-up call to establish regular healthy sleeping patterns

Feb. 23, 2024.
3 min. read 5 Interactions

7-9 hours of sleep a night is currently out of reach for almost one-third of the population worldwide

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Amara Angelica

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Amara Angelica is Senior Editor, Mindplex

Heat map of average sleep duration in each country. Gray indicates countries where there were data from fewer than 100 participants. (credit: Hannah Scott et al)

Getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep a night is currently out of reach for almost one-third of the population, according to Australia-based Flinders University researchers. They found that 31% of adults had average sleep durations outside this recommended range.

The researchers used sleep tracker data collected by an under-mattress sensor to examine sleep durations over a nine-month period of almost 68,000 adults worldwide. Published in Sleep Health, the research found that only 15% of people slept the recommended 7-9 hours for five or more nights per week. And among those who did achieve an average of 7-9 hours of sleep, about 40% of the nights fell outside the ideal range.

Consequences of irregular sleep

“This is crucial because regularly not sleeping enough—or possibly too much—are associated with ill effects and we are only just realizing the consequences of irregular sleep,” says Flinders University researcher Dr Hannah Scott.

Sleeping less than six hours on average per night is associated with increased mortality risk and multiple health conditions, including hypertension, obesity and heart disease. Less than 7 hours and more than 9 hours of sleep a day have been linked to adverse health and wellbeing, including digestive and neuro-behavioural deficits. 

Sleep tips

The Flinders sleep researchers’ tips to achieve a better sleep regime include:

  • In the short term, people are advised to try and maintain a sleep schedule that is sufficient for them to feel rested enough, as often as they possibly can. Keeping a fixed wake-up time, even on weekends, and going to bed when you feel sleepy will help ensure you frequently get enough restorative sleep.
  • If people can’t keep a consistent sleep schedule due to unavoidable commitments (e.g. shift work), catch-up sleep is recommended.
  • Watch for the symptoms of insufficient sleep such as daytime drowsiness, fatigue, struggling to maintain concentration, poor memory, and potentially making errors while driving. This may be due to not sleeping enough, or the sleep not being restorative enough due to poor sleep quality—as occurs with obstructive sleep apnoea, for example.
  • People who feel like they might not be sleeping enough, especially those currently sleeping less than seven hours, could test whether allowing a longer sleep schedule or naps helps them sleep longer and results in them feeling more rested.
  • For those without a sleep disorder, following good sleep hygiene may be beneficial. Avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the afternoon/reducing their caffeine and alcohol consumption across the day, and/or avoiding a heavy meal close to bedtime may help people fall asleep faster and sleep for longer. Others may not see much benefit from following sleep hygiene advice, but it is worth trying, as it may be a relatively simple fix to their sleep problems.
  • People should consult their general practioner in the first instance if they are concerned about their sleep. Treatment options are available through referrals to sleep specialists for a variety of sleep disorders, such as sleep apnoea and insomnia.

Citation: Hannah Scott et al. Dec. 2023. Are we getting enough sleep? Frequent irregular sleep found in an analysis of over 11 million nights of objective in-home sleep data. Sleep Health (Elsevier) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleh.2023.10.016 (open access)

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One thought on “A wake-up call to establish regular healthy sleeping patterns

  1. Why am I reading this at 12am

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