Everybody can agree on the importance of sleep. We’ve all had days where we didn’t get enough and felt the effects dragging us down. But how much of this is our own habits and how much is a result of the schedule that we’re confined to?
The traditional routine for the average working person involves an early rise and eight hour workday. Most of us probably live this lifestyle with little thought to its effectiveness, but recent research may make you reconsider. A study by sleep scientists points to the benefits of a more flexible sleeping schedule, one that accommodates rising at around 10 a.m.
The study followed the sleep and work habits of 124,517 American adults using information gathered from the American Time Use Surveys from 2003 to 2011. The results showed an association between earlier wake up times and a lack of sleep. Although this may seem like an obvious finding, they also found that for every hour later that work or school started in the morning, overall sleep time increased by approximately 20 minutes.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, adults should get between seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Despite this recommendation, studies show that approximately one-third of workers only get around six. The aforementioned sleep scientists believe that their results support the idea that a more flexible and extended schedule would increase sleep quality for adults. But it doesn’t stop there.
Studies of teen sleep patterns have shown similar findings, with evidence that delayed start times lead to increased academic performance, increased attendance, decreased depression rates and less car crashes among student drivers. Further supporting this idea is the fact that at the beginning of puberty, adolescent sleep-wake cycles show an upward shift of two hours.
There are many theories as to why we need sleep and to this day, there is still no conclusive evidence to answer this question. One of the more recent ideas is the Brain Plasticity Theory, which points to the connection between sleep and changes in the structure of the brain. Whatever the answer, the research above supports the importance of sleep for our mental, physical and emotional well-being and the benefits of a minor change to the schedule that many of us currently abide by.
For a more in-depth look at this topic, see our sister article on it here.