Sleep is a very individualised, personal experience.
From lavender sprays to silk pillowcases, many of us need very specific conditions to achieve some shuteye.
But sometimes, these frilly add-ons are more focused on simply getting to sleep – and potentially getting by on less sleep – when actually, optimising our nightly rest to feel energised is equally important.
Some of us are night owls, some of us early birds – and there’s always been discourse over which category is better to fit into. Now, though, it seems there’s some consensus on the issue.
A recent study, published in the European Heart Journal, set out to definitively end the ‘best bedtime’ debate, focusing not on how many hours of sleep we need, but on when we should actually switch everything off and get some kip in.
Surveying 10,3 712 participants over a period of seven days, scientists examined the relationship between sleep onset timing and heart issues.
In total, 3172 cases were reported during an average follow-up period of 5.7 years, with the researchers concluding that the sleep onset time of – drum roll, please – between 10.00pm and 10.59pm was associated with the lowest incidence of cardiovascular disease.
So, there you have it: earlier is better (although this doesn’t necessarily take into account those who work night shifts, who will have very different sleeping patterns to those who do the traditional nine to five).
In terms of the research focus, cardiovascular disease is the most significant cause of mortality worldwide, responsible for 18.6 million deaths worldwide each year. The risk can increase with high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes, with sleep health generally suggestive of an individual’s overall health.
The study didn’t just seek objective answers on when’s best to hit the hay, though. It also looked discuss sleep health in general, labelling it a ‘multidimensional’ construct that should equally consider elements like duration, continuity or efficiency, timing, alertness and quality.
In exploring cardiovascular disease incidence and its relationship with sleep, the results further found that circadian rhythm disruption is ‘likely strongly related to disrupted sleep timing.’
The natural changes that occur over the course of a day, the body’s internal clocks keep these rhythms regulated and on track, playing a vital role in controlling the daily schedule for rest and wakefulness.
So, the next time you’re getting ready for bed, perhaps it’s better to place more emphasis not on how many hours of rest you’ll be getting (guilty as charged), but on the time you’re aiming to fall asleep.
It’s an age-old lie many of us like to tell ourselves (holding myself accountable) but getting eight hours starting at 2am is perhaps not equal in quality to the same amount starting at 10pm. Boo.
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