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May 29, 2024

Recent Research Provides New Insights into Improving Sleep Quality and Health

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Jan 19, 2024

Groundbreaking study debunks common myths about sleep needs and patterns

A major new study published January 9th in the journal Sleep Medicine systematically examines and disproves several widespread myths about sleep. The researchers comprehensively analyzed data from over 18,000 adults to understand actual healthy sleep needs across different ages and life stages. “For too long, sleep recommendations have been oversimplified or based on limited evidence. This groundbreaking study gives us definitive data on what constitutes healthy sleep at any age,” said lead researcher Dr. Rebecca Robbins of Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Key findings from the study include:

  • Everyone requires 7-9 hours of sleep per night, with no evidence that adults need notably less sleep than teens or children
  • Napping, especially for 45 minutes or more, contributes significantly to healthy sleep duration for all ages
  • Sleep needs do not decline after age 60 – older adults also require 7-9 hours per night
  • Contrary to popular belief, there are no “short sleepers” who can function well on little sleep

“This research challenges myths that eight hours of sleep is unnecessary or excessive for most adults,” said Dr. Robbins. “We definitively show that healthy sleep lies in a narrow range around eight hours per night, which has implications for public health recommendations.” Researchers say the findings highlight the importance of prioritizing sufficient sleep to maintain health and wellbeing across the lifespan.

Consistent sleep patterns more critical than total hours slept

While getting enough overall sleep is vital, maintaining a consistent sleep routine may matter even more. Researchers at Rush University published a large study in JAMA Network Open showing that irregular sleep patterns predicted poorer health outcomes. Tracking sleep patterns and health data from over 2,000 older adults, they found high night-to-night variability in sleep times strongly correlated with higher mortality risk.

“These findings highlight the importance of maintaining regular sleep schedules to promote optimal health,” said lead study author Dr. Katherine Burdick. “Consistency predicted mortality risk even after adjusting for sleep duration and quality variables,” she said. “Regularity of sleep timing had similar or stronger associations with health compared to other common sleep measures.” Researchers say the results underscore the critical importance of going to bed and waking up at consistent times to maintain circadian rhythm alignment.

Sleep tips from the experts to fall asleep fast

With so many struggling to get enough sleep amid busy modern lifestyles, sleep experts at the Mayo Clinic offer science-backed techniques to more quickly wind down at night and drift peacefully off to sleep:

Create an ideal sleep environment. Make sure your bedroom is cool (65° F is optimal), dark and quiet. Consider using blackout curtains, a white noise machine, and ensuring your mattress and pillows are comfortable.

Develop a calming pre-bed routine. Take time to relax by reading a book, listening to soothing music or doing light stretches. Dim the lights and avoid digital devices in the hour before bedtime.

Watch what – and when – you eat and drink. Finish eating 2-3 hours before bed and limit liquids right before bed to prevent awakenings to use the bathroom. Avoid stimulants like caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime.

Set yourself up for sleep success. Go to bed and wake up at the same times daily, even after a poor night’s sleep to get back in rhythm. Limit daytime naps to 30 minutes. Keep your bedroom just for sleeping to associate going to bed with falling asleep.

“Following healthy sleep hygiene principles is key to making quality sleep a regular part of your daily routine,” says Dr. Priyanka Chugh, a Mayo Clinic sleep specialist. “Give these recommendations a try and be patient with yourself as you form new habits.”

What’s next? Expanding access to sleep treatments

While following sleep best practices is essential, millions suffer from chronic untreated sleep disorders contributing to risks for heart disease, dementia and early death. A recent study in the journal Sleep found over 80% of people with clinically diagnosed insomnia lack access to evidence-based treatments covered by insurance, resulting in widespread reliance on over-the-counter sleep aids with inconsistent efficacy and safety issues.

“It’s critical we improve access to non-drug behavioral sleep treatments shown to improve sleep and health,” said lead study author Dr. Kelly Baron of the University of Utah. “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBTI) effectively treats insomnia long-term but fewer than 10% of patients receive this therapy.” Researchers are now investigating ways to expand access and utilization of CBTI and digital therapeutics through patient and provider education and broader insurance reimbursement.

“Looking ahead, we have great hope technology can help democratize access to the most effective non-drug sleep treatments at scale for the millions who need them,” Dr. Baron stated.

The Bottom Line: Prioritizing Sleep is Key for Health

The latest sleep research makes it clear that quality sleep in the right amounts is vital to wellbeing. While exact needs vary slightly by individual, most adults require 7-9 hours per night. Beyond overall duration, having consistent bed and wake times night-to-night appears most critical – irregular sleep schedules correlate strongly with poorer health.

Creating an environment conducive to sleep, avoiding stimulants close to bedtime, and implementing a calming pre-bed routine can help improve sleep quantity and regularity. For those struggling with disordered sleep, expanding access to proven drug-free sleep treatments is a top priority.

“When it comes to healthy sleep, the two most actionable steps individuals can take are sticking to consistent sleep and wake times, and proactively adopting sleep hygiene practices,” says Dr. Baron of the University of Utah. “Making sleep health a priority can pay dividends through improvements in mental and physical wellbeing across lifespan stages.”

Appendix: Sleep Habits by Age Group

The table below summarizes findings from a major study on actual sleep needs per age published in Sleep Medicine:

Age Group Recommended Healthy Sleep Duration % Achieving Recommended Sleep
Teens 8-10 hours 16.5%
Younger Adults (18-25) 7-9 hours 33.1%
Midlife Adults (26-64) 7-9 hours 37.2%
Older Adults (65+) 7-8 hours 39.1%
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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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