According to a study released by Nuffield Health in 2022, 74% of adults report bad sleep quality. This probably comes as no surprise as many of us find ourselves competing with friends and colleagues over who is more tired and as the looming stresses of life weigh on us.
Of course, we all know that we should be getting around eight hours of sleep a night and the NHS even recommends getting between seven and nine hours of sleep a night but it turns out that this may not be enough to guarantee a healthy sleeping pattern.
New research published in the journal Sleep has found that, actually, eight hours of sleep isn’t enough and what we should be relying on is consistency.
The sleep hack that could be a strong factor in securing a long life
The study, which was conducted by researchers in Australia, England, and America, has found that going to sleep and waking up at roughly the same time every day is a stronger factor in securing a longer life.
Previous research had linked not getting enough sleep with dying prematurely but according to this new research, getting six hours of sleep a night on a regular schedule likely leaves you healthier than eight hours a night on a scattered schedule.
This is hopeful news for those of us that have busy lives and those of us who just don’t tend to sleep for the full eight hours: there’s still a way to have a healthy life without ticking that particular box!
Matt Walker, a neuroscientist and director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California said to Sleep, “Not just how much you sleep but the regularity with which you sleep has now come onto the map and exploded as perhaps the more important thing”.
The benefits of a regular sleeping pattern
This study involved 60,977 UK Biobank participants with an average age of just under 63 years old. Within just under eight years, 1,859 had died.
Researchers found that higher sleep regularity was associated with:
- a 20-48% lower risk of all-cause mortality
- 16-39% lower risk of cancer mortality
- 22-57% lower risk of cardiometabolic mortality, which includes such things as Type 2 diabetes, inflammation or obesity-related complications
Interestingly, sleep duration did not impact cancer deaths but sleep regularity did.
How to get a better sleep
The NHS recommends that if you’re having trouble getting to, or staying asleep, you should try the following tips:
- Avoid electronic devices for one hour before bed
- Try mindfulness for sleep
- Sleep in a quiet, dark, cool room
- If you’re struggling to get to sleep, get up and do something relaxing instead of trying to force sleep