Sleep your way to the top

Going to bed at the same time every night can be difficult - when there’s cliffhanger after cliffhanger in your favourite series, what other choice do you have than to stay up till 2am binge-watching?

And the next night you’ll undoubtedly crash at 10pm because you’re so tired.

But it turns out this pattern could be affecting you in more ways than one.

Researchers have found that those with regular bedtimes are more successful than those who hit the hay at a different time every night.

Just as important as getting enough sleep is having a regular sleep pattern, scientists from Brigham and Women's Hospital found. 

The small study measured sleep and circadian rhythms in 61 at Harvard College undergraduate students for 30 days using sleep diaries, before comparing that data to their academic performance.

They found that the students with the least regular sleep patterns had a lower grade point average than the others.

Not only that, but those who went to bed at the same time every night were more likely to get straight up in the morning (rather than hitting snooze) and fall asleep quicker at night (rather than tossing and turning, struggling to feel sleepy).

The reason those who go to bed at different times every night struggle to fall asleep is down to irregular melatonin releases, which is the hormone that makes us want to sleep.

Your body clock (AKA circadian rhythm) gets completely confused.

“Our results indicate that going to sleep and waking up at approximately the same time is as important as the number of hours one sleeps,” said Dr Andrew J. K. Phillips, lead study author and biophysicist at the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, Brigham and Women's Hospital.

“Sleep regularity is a potentially important and modifiable factor independent from sleep duration,” Dr Phillips said.

Interestingly, the students all slept for about the same amount of time, but their body clocks varied.

“We found that the body clock was shifted nearly three hours later in students with irregular schedules as compared to those who slept at more consistent times each night,” said Dr Charles A. Czeisler, senior study author and Director of the Sleep Health Institute at the Hospital.

“For the students whose sleep and wake times were inconsistent, classes and exams that were scheduled for 9am were therefore occurring at 6am according to their body clock, at a time when performance is impaired. 

“Ironically, they didn’t save any time because in the end they slept just as much as those on a more regular schedule.”

Comments