Science Says Having a Regular Bedtime Is Healthy for Adults, Too
It’s not just for kids. Having a regular bedtime may have numerous health benefits for adults as well.
There’s no shortage of research touting the importance of getting enough sleep.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests adults need at least seven hours of sleep a night. Consistently failing to meet that goal can result in an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and memory loss.
According to the National Institutes of Health, poor sleep can also increase the risk of slowed reaction times, irritability, anxiety, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
It’s not just about getting enough sleep
Many people know about the importance of maintaining consistent bedtimes for children. Kids who have optimal bedtime routines have been found to perform better in tests of executive function, working memory, inhibition, attention, and cognitive flexibility. They also score higher in school readiness and have better dental health.
But it turns out it’s not just children who benefit from going to sleep at roughly the same time every night.
New research published in the journal Scientific Reports points to adults not only needing to get enough sleep every night, but also needing to maintain consistent sleep routines.
How much sleep do you really need?
The study, run by Dr. Daniel F. Kripke an MD and Professor of Psychiatry specializing in sleep research and aging, didn’t find any statistical health-related reason to sleep longer than 6.5 hours per night.
Data that he used from the Cancer Prevention Study II (CPSII) from the American Cancer Society even shows that sleeping about 5 hours per night is slightly safer than sleeping 8. In this case, we’ll go ahead and define “safer” as “not dying.”
The data is impressive. It covers 1.1 million participants, and it is the first large-scale population study that correlates sleep with longevity while taking into account things like age, diet, exercise, health problems and smoking.
The data is from 1982-1988 because it took years to input the data and perform analysis on it.
I’m not sure where the sleep-8-hours-per-night myth came from, but it’s totally wrong. You can file it away under old information, along with the eat-fewer-calories-to-lose-weight myth.
Understanding your sleeping habits
Just about everyone including doctors, health experts, and athletes agree, sleep is critical. Here are just a few studies that prove just that:
The mental benefits
One night of good sleep can improve your ability to learn new motor skills by 20%.
Quality sleep increases your ability to gain new insight into complex problems by 50%.
The physical benefits
Good sleep promotes skin health and a youthful appearance
Sleep increases testosterone levels.
Sleep controls optimal insulin secretion.
Sleep encourages healthy cell division (helps prevent cancer).
Sleep increases athletic performance.
So if sleep is so awesome, why get less of it? The short answer is: it’s the quality of your sleep that matters, not the quantity. Poor quality sleep can make you fat, weak, and stupid.
If you find that you need a ton of sleep, your body is telling you that there’s something wrong. Stress, over-exercising, and bad nutrition habits are all common reasons your body might want more of your hours to sleep at night. That’s where biohacking comes to the rescue.
Sleep Time Recommendations: What’s Changed?
“The NSF has committed to regularly reviewing and providing scientifically rigorous recommendations,” says Max Hirshkowitz, PhD, Chair of the National Sleep Foundation Scientific Advisory Council. “The public can be confident that these recommendations represent the best guidance for sleep duration and health.”
A new range, “may be appropriate,” has been added to acknowledge the individual variability in appropriate sleep durations. The recommendations now define times as either (a) recommended; (b) may be appropriate for some individuals; or (c) not recommended.
The panel revised the recommended sleep ranges for all six children and teen age groups. A summary of the new recommendations includes:
- Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
- Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
- Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
- Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
- School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
- Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
- Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
- Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
- Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)
Tips and tricks for better sleep
Lunsford-Avery does have advice for those who find maintaining consistent sleep patterns difficult.
While she does acknowledge the standard tips of eating better, sleeping longer, and exercising more (and pointing out that even though these tips are key to health, they can be difficult for some to implement), she says her main recommendation is comparatively simple.
“Set your alarm clock to rise at the same time each day, even on weekends. Set a regular bedtime and stick to it as best you can,” she said.
That’s it. Don’t sleep in on weekends, and try to go to bed at the same time every night.
If that seems difficult, Lunsford-Avery suggests tracking your sleep and wake times in order to increase awareness of your sleep patterns.
She also advises people to avoid naps, as they can interfere with regular sleep-wake patterns by making you less sleepy at bedtime.
Willetts has some advice as well. She tells clients struggling with maintaining consistent sleep patterns to create and use a sleep ritual.
“By this I mean scheduling a consistent bed-wake time and developing a bedtime routine that you can execute nightly. From there, it’s a matter of practicing the routine, identifying what works and doesn’t work, and adjusting until you fall into a consistent routine,” she said.
She also stands by Lunsford-Avery’s advice to wake up at the same time every morning.
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