Multiple studies have suggested that getting seven hours of sleep is the optimal length of time for a good night's rest. Research has consistently shown that those who sleep between six and eight hours a day have a lower risk of developing various diseases and may even live longer. However, recent research indicates that maintaining a consistent sleep routine may be more important than the duration of sleep.
Dr. Chris Winter, a neurologist and sleep expert, recommends going to bed and waking up at the same time every morning. He explains that our bodies function best when they can anticipate sleep rather than simply react to it. A study published last month supports this notion, finding that going to bed at the same time every night reduced the risk of early death by 20 percent. The study also suggests that shorter, more regular sleep with consistent bedtimes is associated with a lower risk of early death compared to longer sleep with inconsistent bedtimes.
Shift workers who frequently alternate between day and night shifts often struggle with inconsistent sleep schedules. However, those who consistently work night shifts are at lower risk of health problems because their sleep routine remains regular. This is because the body produces hormones like cortisol and serotonin throughout the day, which regulate stress, mood, and sleepiness. When sleep patterns are constantly changing, hormone production becomes disrupted, leading to poor sleep, difficulty concentrating, lack of energy, and moodiness.
Dr. Winter advises against becoming overly stressed if one cannot fall asleep at their scheduled bedtime. He reassures that it is normal and that strict adherence to a specific sleep schedule is not necessary. Additionally, if one goes to bed later than usual, taking a long nap to compensate for lost sleep may exacerbate the sleep problem and make it more difficult to fall asleep when bedtime arrives.
The Sleep Foundation recommends establishing a consistent wind-down routine, such as reading a book, listening to music, or taking a warm bath, at the same time every night to help the body adjust to a regular sleep routine. While it may be challenging to consistently fall asleep at a specific time, keeping a regular sleep schedule can have significant benefits for overall health and well-being.