New research identifies some interesting global sleep patterns

A recently published article has just shed some light on global sleep patterns.

The data was collected by an app designed to reduce jet lag. Users of the app could opt-in to allow data on their sleep to be sent back to the app’s servers.

Some of the more interesting findings:

  • Middle-aged men got the least amount of sleep
  • Women got more sleep than men (they averaged half an hour more sleep per night)
  • Older individuals slept less and woke earlier in the day

Although there were differences in average sleep duration between different countries (individuals in the US averaged a little under eight hours of sleep per night, whereas those in Japan averaged less than seven-and-a-half hours), what I found most interesting was the link between bedtime and sleep duration.

The data found that  the later individuals stayed up at night, the less sleep they got . Final wake-time in the morning appeared to have no effect on sleep duration.

Those who got the most sleep tended to go to sleep earlier and spent the most amount of time in natural sunlight.

So what’s the explanation for these findings?

Firstly,  women may be getting more sleep than men because they tend to allot more time for sleep  compared to men. This can be a bit of a double-edged sword for insomniacs, though.

Let me explain why:

Insomnia is usually caused (and/or exacerbated by) incorrect thoughts and behaviors towards sleep. One  ‘incorrect behavior’ is spending too much time in bed, trying to force sleep.  This results in more anxiety, less relaxation and less sleep. (Remember that data from this study was not taken from insomniacs.)

To make sure you’re not allotting too much time for sleep, keep a note of how much sleep you’re getting each night for a week. Average out your sleep duration then add one hour. You shouldn’t be spending any more than that amount of time in bed.

Example:

If you’re averaging six hours of sleep each night, you shouldn’t be spending more than seven hours in bed at night. Therefore, a suggested routine would be in bed and lights out at 11pm and out of bed at 6am.

Secondly,  the pressure to ‘always be connected’ leads to ever-later bedtimes , and usually less available time for sleep.

Not only that, but the electronic devices we are so attached to at night also disrupt sleep through the type of light they emit.

The conclusion, then; sleep varies around the world, but typically those who:

  • Go to bed later
  • Spend more time being active at night
  • Spend less time exposed to natural light

Are more likely to experience the shortest sleep durations.

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